, , , ,

City MP says government’s new changes to NHS dentistry fail to ‘grasp the nettle’

Stephen Morgan MP has said Ministers have failed to ‘grasp the nettle’ in responding to their announcement today on changes to NHS dental contracts.

Prior to today’s announcement, government had long promised changes to alleviate pressures on dental practices and improve local patient access to NHS dentists, ignoring calls to intervene earlier.

The BDA, which failed to back the changes announced government today, estimates it would take an extra £880m simply to restore funding to levels seen in 2010.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said:

“Ministers have once again failed to grasp the nettle and tackle the systemic problems local NHS dentistry faces, with nothing to boost patient access in Portsmouth and nothing to keep dentists in the NHS.

“As the British Dental Association has said, these changes only paper over the cracks, make tweaks around the edges and fail to offer a single penny of new investment to fix the dental desert our city has become.

“Constituents having to resort to DIY dentistry or travel across the country just to get a regular check-up is unsustainable, and an unacceptable record of this Tory government.

“Labour will recruit, train and retain the staff our NHS needs and will revitalise our public services to ensure patients get the healthcare they deserve. I will continue to hold Ministers to account on this.”

The British Dental Association (BDA) has said the NHS dental contract’s current target-based system funds care for little over half the population and sets perverse incentives to dentists, rewarding them the same for doing one filling as ten.

The unsuitability of this model during the pandemic has accelerated the drift of dentists away from the NHS into a full-on exodus. Thousands of dentists have left the NHS in England since lockdown, with almost half reporting having significantly reduced their NHS commitment.

Over 44 million NHS dental appointments have been lost since lockdown in England alone – more than a year’s worth of care in pre-COVID times.

In a statement on the BDA’s website, Shawn Charlwood, Chair of the British Dental Association’s General Dental Practice Committee said:

“These are modest, marginal changes that will not fix the rotten foundations this service is built on.

“Our patients need Ministers to do more than paper over the cracks. These tweaks will do precious little to keep dentists in the NHS or ensure millions get the care they urgently need.

“The simple fact is not a penny of new investment has been pledged, and government targets will still come before patient care.

“Today is little more than a small step on the road to real reform. If government considers this a final destination then it will mean the death of NHS dentistry in England.”