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Dentists: Government offering false hope on claims of NHS recovery

A British Dental Association and Daily Mirror probe has demolished repeat claims by both the Government and the Prime Minister that their Recovery Plan is improving access to NHS dentistry, with just 10% of the practices now categorised as accepting new adult NHS patients actually in a position to do so.

Since February, Ministers and officials have stressed that "500 dental practices have started accepting more NHS patients". The BDA has correlated the locations on infographics against live data from NHS.uk, and was able to identify and call 100 of the 500 practices now categorised as accepting new patients. It found only 10 had the capacity to do so.

One practice on the list even stated they were closing permanently at the end of the month, others reported waiting lists of two years or more. A practice identified as taking on new patients in Health Secretary Victoria Atkin’s Louth and Horncastle constituency said they had no capacity, but if a patient was in excruciating pain - level 10/10 - then the NHS dentist that is in one day a week might consider seeing them as a one off.

The professional body stress that rather than offering meaningful support, government have simply changed the definition of access on NHS.uk from a yes/no question to a ‘maybe’: asking them whether they are “accepting new NHS patients when availability allows.”

This new status is effectively measuring whether practices ‘want’ to take on new patients, not if they actually can at this time. The BDA say the Government’s approach is actively unhelpful to patients giving them false hope when in reality in vast majority of cases they have no chance of an actual appointment.

The BDA stress improvements on access hinge on reform of the discredited NHS contract, and a sustainable funding settlement for the service. Not a single practice in the PM’s Richmond and Northallerton constituency is accepting new adult NHS patients, even by the new measure.

BDA Chair Eddie Crouch said:

“Rather than trying to end the crisis in NHS dentistry, government simply moved the goalposts on how it’s measured.

“Ministers can change the definition of 'access', but it hasn’t altered the grim reality facing millions.

“Our patients have been offered false hope, when they need a serious plan to keep this service afloat.”