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Dentists: Government need to stop trying to fill leaky bucket

The British Dental Association has slammed government failure to address the root causes of the crisis in NHS dentistry, describing commitments to boost overseas dentist numbers as the latest attempt to fill a ‘leaky bucket’.

The professional body has described the recent ‘Recovery Plan’ for NHS dentistry as “unworthy of the title” given its failure to break with the discredited contract fuelling the exodus from the NHS workforce. The Government has ruled out breaking with the system of targets dubbed ‘unfit for purpose’ by both the Health and Social Care Committee and the Times Health Commission.

There are currently a record number of dentists registered to practice with the General Dental Council, but the number of dentists undertaking NHS activity in England has fallen to levels not seen since 2016/17. There is no evidence that overseas dentists are any more willing to maintain a long-term commitment to the failed system of tick boxes and targets than their UK counterparts.

The BDA does not recognise any of the claims made by the Government on the ‘millions’ of new appointments created by the Recovery Plan. The Department of Health has not published any of the modelling underpinning these numbers. Dentist leaders stress there are no measures in the plan that increase capacity in the struggling service, or that are likely to bring dentists back to the NHS.

BDA Chair Eddie Crouch said:

“A broken contract is forcing dentists out of the NHS with every day it remains in force.

“Overseas dentists are no more likely to stick with a failed system than their UK colleagues.

“Ministers need to stop trying to fill a leaky bucket, and actually fix it.”