The British Dental Association (BDA) has welcomed a reminder from the Welsh Government to Local Health Boards (LHBs) that funding allocated for dentistry must not be diverted to fund any other type of healthcare.
Minister for Health and Social Services Lesley Griffiths has written to LHB Chairs to remind them that budgets allocated for spending on general dental services contracts and the Designed to Smile programme should be used as intended, and that any underspends on these budgets should not be diverted to shore-up other services. The letter expresses concerns that some LHBs are not maintaining improvements to dental services and that access for patients remains problematic in some areas.
The BDA has also applauded the letter’s confirmation that the dental budget will remain ringfenced until at least March 2014-15 and the renewal of a commitment to develop Community Dental Services in Wales to help with the aim of ensuring vulnerable patients have access to appropriate care. The letter notes the lack of investment in CDS services in deprived areas and the responsibility LHBs hold providing or securing services for society’s most vulnerable groups.
Stuart Geddes, BDA Director for Wales, said:
“We welcome the Minister’s clear iteration that dental budgets designated for primary care are to be used solely for developing dental services in this area. The BDA has been concerned for some time that some Health Boards appear to be sitting on funds earmarked for dentistry, rather than commissioning services where they are urgently needed.
“In a country where some people are struggling to access dental care and we are fighting oral health inequalities, it is simply unthinkable that money intended to improve dental services should be diverted. Local Health Boards need to sit up and take notice of this letter and strive to deliver the care their populations require.
“The Minister’s letter also provides a timely reminder to the Boards of the need to invest appropriately in Community Dental Services. As the BDA has consistently pointed out, vulnerable patients in Wales need to be afforded some political priority to ensure that they are getting the care they need. We are delighted to see that our message has been heard and that Boards are being reminded of their duty to invest appropriately in the care of these patients.”