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Unfit for purpose: Health Committee slams contract fuelling crisis in NHS dentistry

The British Dental Association has welcomed the conclusions of the Health and Social Care Committee inquiry into Workforce: recruitment, training and retention, which dubbed the system underpinning NHS dentistry as not "fit for purpose" and pledged to hold an inquiry in the crisis in dental services.

The news comes just days after government moved forward only marginal tweaks to the widely discredited NHS contract, in which dentists are remunerated for hitting targets – Units of Dental Activity – that often bear little relation to the work they undertake.

Citing evidence from the frontline exodus from the NHS workforce, the committee concludes: "the current UDA-contract system is not fit for purpose, and urgent reform is needed to boost recruitment and retention in NHS dental services. We will return to this issue in a forthcoming inquiry into dental services."

The marginal changes announced last week change none of the fundamentals in a system that funds access for barely half the population, and puts government targets ahead of patient care.

The Health Committee made the same judgement in 2008. The BDA has stressed that NHS dentistry will not survive without radical and urgent action from both the Department of Health and the Treasury.

Shawn Charlwood, Chair of the British Dental Association's General Dental Practice Committee, who gave oral evidence to the Committee said:

"At least the Health Committee recognises the urgency here.

"With every day that passes dentists are walking away from the NHS, and it will take more than rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic to stem the flow.

"We have yet to see any movement on meaningful reform and adequate funding. Until Ministers wake up the very future of a service millions depend on remains in doubt."