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No sign of recovery plan as unmet need for NHS dentistry hits record high

As parliament prepares to break for summer recess, the British Dental Association has expressed its dismay at government's failure to honour pledges to implement a recovery plan for NHS dentistry, now facing the gravest access problems in its history.

Analysis undertaken by the BDA of government data published just last week indicates unmet need for dentistry in 2023 stood at over 12 million people, up a million on 2022 figures, and now well over one in four of England's adult population.

The data indicates over six million adults tried and failed to get an appointment in the past two years, and 4.4 million simply did not try because they thought they could not secure one. Those put off by cost are now equivalent to over 1.1 million adults, those on waiting lists estimated at around 600,000.

Figures are now nearly three times pre-pandemic totals. In 2019 unmet need sat at over 4 million people, or nearly one in ten adults.

In April the government pledged a recovery plan just minutes before a bruising interrogation from parliament's Health and Social Care Committee. The Committee's damning report has described the state of NHS dentistry as "unfit for the 21st century" and backed calls for fundamental reform to dentistry, and for any recovery plan to be underpinned by appropriate resources.

The BDA has said the plan offers an effective blueprint to save NHS dentistry. It has pressed government to sign up in full to the cross-party recommendations, with over 1,300 dentists putting in an open letter to Health Secretary yesterday.

Shawn Charlwood, Chair of the British Dental Association's General Dental Practice Committee said:

"It's the end of term at Westminster but Ministers have failed to do their homework on NHS dentistry.

"Record numbers are now struggling to access care. This service is going under, and we need a rescue plan."