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Police break up queues in Bristol at the sharp end of NHS access crisis

The British Dental Association has warned the Government that sticking plaster policies will not ease the crisis in NHS dentistry, following unprecedented scenes in Bristol as police attempted to disperse hundreds of people desperately seeking NHS care.

Lines formed early this morning outside a former Bupa Dental Care site, now reopening as Saint Pauls Dental Practice. Videos posted on X show police attempting to turn away crowds.

The Government is expected to publish a long-promised recovery plan for NHS dentistry on Wednesday. Ministers have refused to sign up to cross-party and expert calls - from both the Health and Social Care Committee and the Times Health Commission - to break from the discredited contract fuelling the current access crisis. While some £200m is set to be announced for practices, it is unclear if this is new money or recycled underspends, leftover from practices struggling to hit their punitive Government targets. Analysis of recent Department of Health Accounts reveal the service's £3bn budget, almost unchanged in a decade, has been subject to £1bn in real-terms cuts since 2010.

The Government has repeatedly stated its goal is to provide NHS dental care for all who need it. The BDA has not seen anything in trailed policies capable of meeting that objective.

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

“Does the future of NHS dentistry involve the police turning away desperate patients?

“If Ministers think sticking plaster polices will solve this crisis, then these scenes will be repeated.

“Nothing short of fundamental reform can save this service and restore access to millions.”