Urgent Calls for NHS Dentistry Reform

NHS dentistry reforms
BSC, LLB (Hons) & LPC Sophia Azam
Legally reviewed by: BSC, LLB (Hons) & LPC Sophia Azam In: Medical Negligence

Shift in NHS Dentistry Landscape: Calls for NHS Dentistry Reform

8 out of 10 dental practices are not accepting new NHS patients as experts are warning that the traditional framework of NHS dentisty is ‘gone for good.’  The Nuffield Trust think tank officially states that the service has been cut back so much it is now at the most perilous position in its 75-year history in England. As a result, advocates are urgently calling for NHS dentistry reform.

The Nuffield Trust claims that restoring services would need a potentially unrealistic amount of money. Furthermore, the Nuffield Trust is calling for radical reform, suggesting that NHS support may need complete scaling back for some adults.

The government are soon to publish a recovery plan.

NHS Dentistry Funding Crisis

The Nuffield Trust highlights substantial funding reductions in recent years for NHS dentistry. In 2021-22, expenditures amounted to £3.1 billion. This reflects a significant decrease of £525 million since 2014-15 when adjusted for inflation. Furthermore, the Trust observes that the number of treatments conducted each year now stands six million lower than it was before the pandemic.

Universal Service Under Scrutiny

The original universal service provides a combination of free care for some and subsidised support for others.

The Nuffield Trust proposes a potential solution—charging adults for the full cost of treatment beyond emergency care and check-ups, while safeguarding free care for the young, elderly, and those with the lowest incomes.

Families Not Able to See NHS Dentist

Many families have not been able to see their dentist since pre-covid.

The BBC has recently reported on Peter Williams and his family, who last saw an NHS dentist in 2019.

Williams, underscores the unfairness, particularly for children, and sheds light on the financial burden in case of emergencies

“Very soon after our dentist reopened its doors after Covid we received a letter saying they were no longer treating NHS patients and we would have to take out a private dentistry plan or pay for our treatment.”

Despite regularly trying local dentists close to him in West Sussex, Peter has not been able to find one willing to take on new NHS patients.

“They either only accept private patients or their NHS slots are all full.

“It is impossible. My children are 19 and 17 and they haven’t had a check-up for four years.

“I think it is really unfair, particularly on children.

“If there was an emergency I would just have to pay privately for treatment. But that is not right.”

Call for NHS Dentistry Reform

The Chief Executive of the Nuffield Trust, Thea Stein, asserts that making difficult decisions is imperative to ensure basic core services for those most in need. Whether through significant improvements to service contracting or commissioning, an evaluation of the NHS dentistry model is imperative.

Thea Stein states: “Difficult and frankly unpalatable policy choices will need to be made. If, as it seems, the original model of NHS dentistry is gone for good, then surely the imperative is to provide enough access for a basic core service for those most in need.

“Whichever way we go, I’m afraid that NHS dentistry cannot continue without some kind of evaluation of the offer, even if there are some major improvements to the way services are contracted and commissioned.”

Additionally, think tank states while the data underpinning this report is for England only, there was little to suggest the other parts of the UK were not struggling either.

The Department of Health and Social Care responded by assuring that they would publish a dental recovery plan shortly, and they have already taken measures to enhance access, including a 40% increase in dental training places.

The Labour Party proposed injecting additional funds into the system by eliminating the non-dom tax status, allowing individuals residing in the UK to evade UK tax on income earned outside the country. They argued that this move would facilitate the creation of hundreds of thousands of more urgent appointments.

However, the Nuffield Trust expressed skepticism, suggesting that even with these proposed measures, it might not be sufficient to address the pressing issues in NHS dentistry.

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