Yvonne Fovargue MP: The future of NHS dentistry is at risk
Figures for the borough show that there are over 6,500 people for every one NHS dentist.
Despite the heroic efforts of staff, patients are struggling to access or register with a dentist.
An estimated four million people cannot access NHS dental care and they cannot afford to go private either.
Since 2010, total funding for dental services in England has dropped by 8% in real terms, with the number of NHS practices falling by more than 1,200 in the five years prior to the pandemic; 2,000 dentists quit the NHS in 2021 alone, with many voicing concerns that they feel undervalued and under-resourced.
The difficulty obtaining treatment is one of the public’s main sources of frustration with the health service, with just one in three people satisfied with dental services.
In a recent debate in Parliament, Labour called on the Government to urgently bring forward a plan to support primary care and ensure that everyone who needs an NHS dentist can access one.
However, BBC research finds 90% of dental practices are not accepting new patients and 80% are not accepting new child patients.
The Association of Dental Groups said parts of England are at risk of becoming “dental deserts”, with many patients forced to visit A&E or resorting to performing their own ‘DIY dentistry’ to reduce pain.
Successive Tory governments since 2010 have pledged to reform the dental contract but not done so, although negotiations are ongoing.
NHS England spends about £3bn a year on dental care, though that sum has remained flat for some time.
Dentists dislike what they call a “broken” contract that involves targets for the amount of care given and, they say, can pay them the same amount for doing one filling as for doing 10 and discourages them from treating complex cases because they do not get paid for the time involved.
The Government said it is changing the dental contract to incentivise dentists to do more NHS work.
Yet ministers have been promising reform for over a decade.
And the British Dental Association said proposals will do little to ease the exodus of dentists or to address the crisis in patient care.