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Mirror joins call for real change in NHS dentistry

The British Dental Association has greeted the Daily Mirror’s launch of a national campaign to save NHS dentistry

With patients in Bridlington now facing nine year waits for NHS care, ‘Dentists for All’ sees the paper throw its weight behind the calls for wholesale reform of the discredited NHS contract fuelling the current access crisis.

The paper is making three demands:

  1. Everyone should have access to an NHS dentist

More than 12 million people were unable to access NHS dental care last year – more than 1 in 4 adults in England. At the same time 90% of dental practices are no longer accepting new NHS adult patients.

Data from the House of Commons Library showed 40% of children didn't have their recommended annual check-up last year.

  1. Restore funding for dental services and recruit more NHS dentists

The UK spends the smallest proportion of its heath budget on dental care of any European nation. Government spending on dental services in England was cut by a quarter in real terms between 2010 and 2020. The number of NHS dentists is down by more than 500 to 24,151 since the pandemic.

  1. Change the contracts

A Parliamentary report by the Health Select Committee has branded the current NHS dentists' contracts as “not fit for purpose” and described the state of the service as "unacceptable in the 21st century". The system effectively sets quotas on the maximum number of NHS patients a dentist can see as it caps the number of procedures they can perform each year. Dentists also get paid the same for delivering three or 20 fillings, often leaving them out of pocket. The system should be changed so it enables dentists to treat on the basis of patient need.

While the UK Government has repeatedly stated its goal is to ensure everyone who needs NHS dentistry can access it, there is no evidence of action to deliver on that ambition.

Ministers have rejected calls from the Health Select Committee for a decisive break from Units of Dental Activity and have dragged their heels over publication of a recovery plan first pledged last Spring.

“A wealthy 21st century nation has seen its citizens pulling out their own teeth with pliers, while others queue from the crack of dawn to access care” says British Dental Association Chair Eddie Crouch. 

“Underfunding and failed contracts, the crisis millions face is the result of political choices.

“The Mirror is showing leadership we desperately need to see from Westminster.”