In a joint message Healthwatch England and the British Dental Association have urged Rishi Sunak to use the coming Spending Review to guarantee the future of NHS dentistry.
With over 30 million appointments lost since the first lockdown, the two organisations have pressed the Chancellor to ensure resources are in place for the recovery and promised reform of the service.
The two organisations say:
- The crisis in the service continues to grow. Dentistry has risen to be the number one issue raised with Healthwatch over the pandemic, and the volume of feedback continues to grow. From April to June 2021 feedback was up 55% on the previous three months, and 794% higher when compared with the same period in 2020. Nearly 4 in 5 people (79%) of those sharing their stories said they had found it difficult to access timely care.
- The two bodies are pushing for the reversal of a decade of cuts With no attempt to keep pace with both inflation and population growth, the BDA have said it would take an additional £879m from the Treasury to restore resources to 2010 levels. With £0.6 billion lost in NHS patient charge revenues since lockdown – which the Government appears anxious to retrieve – both bodies have said Ministers must guarantee adequate funding to deliver NHS dentistry to all who need it and rule out both inflation-busting patient charge hikes and cuts to front line services.
- Invest in the fundamentals. The future of national child and adult dental health surveys – vital for setting strategy – have remained in doubt owing to financial uncertainty. Without this data there is no basis to effectively plan oral health services.
Sir Robert Francis QC, chair of Healthwatch England, said:
“Lack of access to NHS dentistry has exploded as an issue for people over the last year, with both the volume of feedback and negative sentiment going through the roof. We’ve heard from patients up and down the country unable to find care, leaving them in pain and taking matters into their own hands. We’ve also heard from parents unable to register their children with an NHS dentist, as local dental practices weren't taking on new patients, had gone private or had closed down.
"Every part of the country is facing a dental care crisis, with NHS dentistry at risk of vanishing into the void. The Government needs to use the forthcoming Spending Review to provide vital investment in services like dentistry that help keep us all healthy and ensure we build back better for current and future generations.”
BDA Chair Eddie Crouch said:
“In the last Spending Review Ministers chose to make patients pay more into NHS dentistry, so they could pay less.
“These charges are now a substitute for decent state investment, with no attempt to even try and keep pace with demand or inflation.
“Ministers have pledged reform. Simply telling dentists to do more with less will not provide the care our patients desperately need.”