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Majority of dentists say Welsh Government has it wrong on reform

The overwhelming majority of dentists say the Welsh Government's approach to reform of NHS dentistry is failing, with significant numbers indicating they plan to withdraw from the scheme or scale down or even end their NHS commitment.

Minister Eluned Morgan told the BBC last month "The system has changed. It's working. Of course, there may be frustrations from some dentists who may not like the new system, but it's very, very much a minority."

Polling of 250 high street dentists in Wales found that 97% disagreed. Over 70% of practices in the reform programme report they are expecting financial penalties this year, for failure to hit a system of untested new targets, that may jeopardise their future sustainability. As a result, only 39% say they intend to stay in the reform program in 2023-24.

Over 30% intend to reduce their NHS contract value for 2023-24 and on current projections around 13% intend to hand back their NHS contracts at the end of this financial year – and this is on top of those already handed back.

The Welsh Government has rolled out new contracts, which include an obligation to focus on new patients. The BDA has stressed this approach appears to be an attempt to give the appearance of more patient access without meaningful investment. It has warned as many as a dozen existing appointments will need to be sacrificed to see a single new high needs patient. In an open letter issued last month the professional body warned the targets attached to the contract could prove fatal for NHS provision at dozens of practices.

Russell Gidney, Chair of the British Dental Association's Welsh General Dental Practice Committee said:

"My colleagues have fundamental concerns about the survival of NHS Dentistry in Wales.

"A new system isn't working, and it's easy to see why, given the toxic mix of underinvestment, untested targets, and the risk of crippling financial penalties.

"This isn't the view of a tiny minority, but the overwhelming majority of dentists across Wales.

"Failure to heed their warnings risks leaving more communities without access to care."