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Dentists: failure to inflation-proof NHS is gross negligence

Failure to act leaves £ ½ billion hole in dental budget

The British Dental Association has condemned failure in the Autumn Statement to set aside funds to fully insulate the NHS from skyrocketing inflation, warning it will amount to deep cuts to frontline services that are already at breaking point.

The BDA estimates that simply to maintain the spending power in recent budgets for NHS dentistry would now require an additional outlay of nearly £0.5b a year. Recent inflationary pressures follow a decade of austerity, in which funds failed to keep pace with inflation and population growth. It would take an extra £1.5b a year just to restore resources in NHS dentistry in England to 2010 levels. 

In July 'dental inflation' already sat at over 11%, with practices confronting soaring energy prices, and mounting costs of providing care within a standstill budget. With dentists facing the prospect of delivering NHS treatments at a financial loss, the BDA warn this will only accelerate the exodus from the workforce. 

Recent research has indicated nine out of ten practices are unable to offer appointments to new adult NHS patients. While the government has expressed its commitment to reform the widely discredited contract for NHS dentistry, the BDA have repeatedly stressed that stated objectives to improve patient access and workforce retention cannot be achieved without meaningful investment. 

Ahead of the statement the BDA warned the new Chancellor that "there is simply no more fat to trim, short of denying access to an even greater proportion of the population."

BDA Chair Eddie Crouch said: 

"Failure to protect the NHS from soaring inflation amounts to savage cuts to frontline services. 

"This isn't fiscal discipline, but gross negligence that will actively undermine patient care. 

"If the Treasury expect practices to provide NHS care at a loss it will only deepen the access crisis facing millions of patients.   

"The last round of austerity brought NHS dentistry to its knees. Another dose of 'efficiency savings' will fatally undermine efforts to rebuild and reform this service."