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Inaction risks ‘generational damage to patient care’ if issues over NHS dentistry not addressed warns Portsmouth MP

Stephen Morgan MP stood up for Portsmouth people struggling to access NHS dentistry or get the care they need in a debate in Parliament today on the impact the Covid-19 pandemic is having on dental services

Speaking in a debate in order for the relevant Government Minister to respond and take action, the Portsmouth South MP underlined he is ‘particularly concerned about the recently imposed NHS activity targets’ and the impact this is having on local dental services.

The latest intervention in the House of Commons follows Mr Morgan’s long-running efforts on concerns from constituents and came after hosting a summit earlier this week with representatives from Healthwatch Portsmouth, the British Dental Association (BDA), and the local dental committee.

New targets set by Government could lead to some practices facing steep financial penalties if they fail to hit 45% of their pre-pandemic NHS activity during the current quarter.

According to figures from the BDA, only 43% of adults in Portsmouth have seen an NHS dentist in the 2 years up to June 2020, compared to 48% across England.

During his speech, the Portsmouth South representative spoke of one of his constituents that attempted a DIY tooth extraction, using pliers to relieve their pain, joining the 7.6% of English households who have done similar.

Stephen Morgan MP, commented:

“Dental services in our city were already under huge pressure even before the impacts of Covid-19, but the government is exacerbating the situation.

The recently imposed NHS activity targets are particularly illogical. The targets effectively force practices to prioritise volume over need – leaving them with little choice but to conduct routine check-ups instead of clearing the backlog of more time-consuming treatments.

This creates the unsustainable situation where patients in our city are unable to access the treatment they need, while practitioners are in a race against time to maintain their financial viability”.

Mr Morgan has previously raised concerns on the impacts the pandemic has had on dentistry and called on Government to act. The MP is now calling on Ministers to intervene to reach agreement with the profession and alleviate concerns being raised.

The Portsmouth South MP added:

“Though Ministers have committed to reforming the system we have seen no action and little appetite to do so.

It is essential we fundamentally reform the way NHS dentistry is commissioned and incentivised. 

Without urgent change, NHS dentistry in Portsmouth and across the country could be decimated, permanently damaging patient care for decades to come”.

In support of the call to action, Ian Mills, Dean of the Faculty of General Dental Practice UK, added:

“Many patients have been unable to access dental care for over a year, with their dental problems getting steadily worse, and oral health inequalities exacerbated by coronavirus restrictions. The dental profession is acutely aware of the present backlog of unmet dental need, which requires treatment as soon as possible.

However, the recent imposition of UDA (Units of Dental Activity)-based targets in England to remedy this, just as the pandemic becomes worse than it has ever been, is at odds with the Government’s message to ‘stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives’.

The dental profession has worked assiduously to create a safe environment for dental treatment to be delivered, but there are justifiable concerns that significant increases in patient throughput, in order to meet UDA targets, could potentially compromise staff and patient safety. 

The UDA was an ineffective measure of activity before the COVID pandemic, and we consider it even less appropriate now. Circumstances will vary by practice and by patient, but the priority should be on safety, the treatment of those with acute needs, and essential maintenance of oral health.”