The British Dental Association has responded to reports that access to NHS dentistry ranked alongside issues with local schools and Partygate in fuelling the Conservatives' landslide defeat in the Tiverton by-election.
The news comes in a week in which MPs have pressed Ministers for urgent change in NHS dentistry in two major debates, and follows warnings from the BDA to the Health and Social Care Committee last month that the service faces 'slow death' without real reform and fair funding.
The current system funds care for little over half the population and sets perverse incentives to dentists, rewarding them the same for doing one filling as ten. The unsuitability of this model during the pandemic has accelerated the drift of dentists away from the NHS into a full-on exodus. Thousands of dentists have left the NHS in England since lockdown, with many more significantly reducing their NHS commitment.
Modest, marginal changes to the current discredited target-based NHS dental contract are set to be announced before summer recess. Formal negotiations on meaningful wholesale reform of the contract are yet to begin.
British Dental Association Chair Eddie Crouch said:
"The Tiverton by-election underlines the real political cost of failure to fix the crisis in NHS dentistry.
"It's easy to understand why the inability to access basic healthcare services is resonating on the doorstep.
"The barriers facing millions of people in pain are made in Westminster. Until government turns the page on a decade of underfunding and failed contracts we will not see progress.
"Patients and voters deserve better."