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Dentists press Javid to correct the record on failed contract fuelling access crisis

The British Dental Association has pressed Health Secretary Sajid Javid to correct the official record, after he claimed the professional body was the co-author of the discredited NHS contract fuelling the current crisis in NHS dentistry.

In response to questions from Duncan Baker MP on the urgent need for dental contract reform, Javid told the House "it is well known how the Labour Government came up with contracts with the British Dental Association that are leading to poor outcomes for millions of people across the country".

The target-driven NHS contract was imposed on dentists in England and Wales in 2006, with the BDA refusing to sign up to a model that placed government targets ahead of patient care.

The perverse system funds care for little over half the population and sets perverse incentives to dentists, rewarding them the same for doing one filling as ten. The unsuitability of this model during the pandemic has accelerated the drift of dentists away from the NHS into a full-on exodus.

In an open letter to the Health Secretary, BDA Chair Eddie Crouch, and General Dental Practice Committee Chair Shawn Charlwood said:

"The current discredited contract, which has limited access for the public and decimated the NHS workforce, was in fact imposed on this profession. The British Dental Association was never prepared to sign up to a system that puts government targets ahead of patient care.

"In 2008 the Health Committee rightly dubbed this contract 'unfit for purpose', but no government in the last 14 years has been ready and willing to turn the page.

"We warned back in 2006 that "it is clear that even those dentists who are signing the contract are desperately concerned about the future." Our profound concerns, then as now, have been utterly vindicated. With thousands of dentists having left the NHS in England since lockdown, COVID has accelerated an exodus that was already in motion, with millions of patients paying the price.

"We trust you will now make a short personal statement to the House correcting your statement which wrongly suggests the BDA played any role in designing the current dysfunctional system.

"Clearly, we all want to see the best possible outcome achieved for our patients and urgent and meaningful reform of the dental contract – as well as appropriate funding – are necessary to achieving it. As we await the commencement of formal negotiations on a new contractual model, we trust you will ensure officials have the latitude and the resources needed to finally end this crisis and start a new chapter in the history of NHS dentistry."