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Welsh Government's 'access boost' fashioned from whole cloth

The British Dental Association has warned potentially misleading claims that Welsh Government reforms will generate 112,000 new appointments are being used as cover to mask failure to invest in NHS dentistry.

Under plans announced today the Welsh Government is suggesting that moves to ensure healthier patients receive less frequent check-ups will enhance access. However, this ignores the fact that most dentists already extend the recall interval where they feel it will not harm patient wellbeing. NICE guidance, in place for 18 years, has advocated recall intervals from every three months to two years, and these guidelines are not changing.

BDA Wales has also stressed that a high proportion of patients across Wales will require more frequent appointments under this same guidance, given the high levels of unmet need in the nation's most deprived communities. It has sought clarity on the methodology underpinning the claimed potential 'boost', suggesting the numbers have been designed to generate headlines, rather than reflecting public health data and patient need.

Dentist leaders have warned that statements from officials that "everyone in Wales who wants NHS dental care, can get access to it" are massively overselling modest tinkering and overlook the vast numbers of "registered" patients forfeiting care this year to allow for headline-grabbing numbers of new patients to be seen. They stress meaningfully boosting access and halting the exodus from the NHS workforce can only be achieved through sustained investment, which the Welsh Government has thus far declined to offer. BDA Wales is seeking clarity on how new roles will be filled without changes in the budget.

Russell Gidney, Chair of the British Dental Association's Welsh General Dental Practice Committee, said:

"The Welsh Government is attempting to conjure up new appointments, without meaningful investment. Sadly, these claims look like they were cobbled together on the back of an envelope.

"Dentists have worked to similar guidelines for the best part of two decades. The fact is it could take a dozen healthy patients forfeiting annual check-ups to allow one new high-needs patient to be seen.

"Patients across Wales are facing an access crisis, while demoralised dentists are leaving the service in droves. These problems will not be solved with empty soundbites and misleading numbers."