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Dentists: New data can lift lid on England’s real dental deserts

The British Dental Association has said pioneering data on the dental workforce must provide the foundations for a serious plan of action for the service.

For decades official data has been a work of fiction. It counted heads not commitment and gave a dentist doing a single NHS check-up a year the same weight as an NHS full timer. 

The General Dental Council has asked registrants to account for their NHS/private split. It shows 19% of the workforce provide only private care, with no NHS, and a further 14% said they work predominantly (over 75% of their time) in private care. Only 15% of are fully NHS, with no private care, and a further 27% said they work predominantly (over 75% of their time) in NHS care.

The BDA say serious analysis is now required to provide the first credible estimate of the Whole Time Equivalent NHS dentist workforce, and for properly resourced long-term plans to be developed based around where the nation’s real ‘dental deserts’ are. While the response rate is strong (some 57% of registrants completed) it currently lacks granularity to look at local workforce challenges.

The BDA recently blasted the Government’s NHS dentistry ‘Recovery Plan’ as unworthy of the title and warned that while this data is crucial it won’t make a difference without the political will to act on it.

BDA Chair Eddie Crouch said:

“We finally have a snapshot of the real world of dentistry - which contains more private full timers than there are NHS.

“Yes, it will take time, but Government needs to use these numbers to pinpoint where the real dental deserts are and deliver real change.

 “When access problems are hitting every part of the country this research must not sit on a shelf gathering dust.”