1. Invest more in children's oral health
In areas of deprivation the innovative prevention programme Designed to Smile should be made compulsory, and extended to nurseries for children under 3 years of age, funded by the sugar levy.
Since 2008 the Welsh Government has funded Designed to Smile, the Wales National Oral Health Improvement Programme. Supervised brushing and fluoride varnish programmes have helped young children establish good habits and are already reducing caries.
The 2015 Child Dental Health Survey showed 66% of Welsh 15-year-olds have decay, compared with 41% across the border.
Assembly Members backed a 20% sales tax for sugary drinks in a symbolic vote last December. Now a UK-wide levy is on the cards, we have to push further. The Assembly must use its discretion to direct a slice of the revenue raised towards pioneering preventative programmes.
We believe that in areas of high oral health deprivation all schools and nurseries, including those for children under three, should be compelled to take part in this innovative programme. The scheme works, and the sugar levy gives us a chance to build on its success.
2. Make dental charges affordable
We welcome the freeze on NHS patient charges and call for further fiscal measures to help the 388,000 who cannot afford to visit their dentist.
Prescription charges have been abolished, while dental charges remain frozen. We believe the Welsh government should take this approach a step further, and ensure dental charges remain genuinely affordable for all who have to pay.
Nearly 400,000 people in Wales have delayed or avoided dental treatment because of costs. The Assembly has a duty to those on lower incomes that charges do not represent a barrier to those in need of care.
3. Advance the Health Boards
We support the OECD's finding that the Welsh Government needs more concrete levers for delivery - Health Boards must spend their full funds for primary dental care.
We will be pressing for more concrete levers for our Health Boards, so they spend their full allocation on primary dental care, while driving innovation and core standards across the board.
Health Boards were required to produce their local oral health plans in 2013. However, we are concerned that under current legislation the Welsh Assembly Government has too few powers to ensure that the Boards will deliver against these plans.
The inception of Clusters is welcomed in principle, however we are concerned at the slow pace of innovation by the Health Boards in their effective use. We want to see consistency of GDP services commissioning, and consistency in the way Clusters make their recommendations to Health Boards.
We want the voice of the dental care professional to be clearly heard in every Cluster by targeting some of the extra government funding for Clusters, and for the new Welsh Assembly Government to hold the Health Boards to account.
4. Progress dental regulation
Regulation of dentists must be proportionate and appropriate for patient safety. We call on the Welsh Assembly to ensure regulations are progressive.
We know that effective dental regulation is vital, but it must be proportionate and appropriate for patient safety. We will call on the Assembly to ensure patients and practitioners can benefit from a genuinely progressive regulatory regime.
We welcome the current review of regulation of private dental treatment in Wales and the general direction of travel, but warn against over- bureaucratic and costly processes that show no benefit to patients. Charges to practices need to be evidence-based.
5. Plan for the future
We call for a truly prevention based contract, alongside evidence-based workforce planning with incentives to encourage the best dentists to train and work in Wales.
We need to see the next Assembly planning for the future. Evidence-based research into workforce planning is now essential. We want to see incentives to keep Welsh-trained dentists in Wales and real progress towards a reformed contract with prevention at its heart.
The strategy Delivering a Five-Year Service, Workforce and Financial Strategic framework for NHS Wales expires this year. This is an opportunity for centrally steered, more ambitious and forward-looking dental workforce capacity planning, based on anticipated population oral health needs.
Nearly 85% of dentists in Wales who responded to the BDA survey in 2015 said they were dissatisfied with how the NHS runs dentistry. In 2013 the Wales Chief Dental Officer pledged to develop a new recruitment and retention process for primary and secondary dental care – we call for this to become a reality.
We welcome the recent pilots for a new capitation-based GDS contract with no UDAs and would urge the new Welsh Assembly Government to install the newly-trialled prevention-based model across Wales as soon as possible with no detriment to practice income.
We call for the new Welsh Assembly Government to make significant investments in dentistry in the next five years in order to serve the oral health needs of the population and also to ensure a high performing, sustainable dental workforce.