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Dentistry on the doorstep

The current crisis is topping voter concerns and requires a proportionate response from every political party.

Eddie Crouch
Eddie Crouch BDA Chair

For the first time in the NHS’s 75-year history dentistry is set to be a headline issue in a UK General Election.

It’s feedback we’ve heard after by-elections the length and breadth of England over the last year. So, with an election upon us we set out to do the research, and we are floored by the results.

We can take no pleasure in the fact that dentistry is now at the forefront of voter concerns. It’s a reflection of the crisis we face. And why every party needs to step up.

Testing a theory

We had a theory. That consistent failure to set out credible plans on dentistry would hit the parties at the ballot box.

Now we’ve got the proof we needed.

Polling from YouGov shows, that as a local concern, voters are placing dentistry above traditional doorstep issues like schools, the state of the high street, and even crime.

Nearly a third of voters (28%) identified it as a top local concern compared to 24% for crime, 19% for high street shops, 15% for public transport, and 11% for schools and education.

It’s striking that only the state of roads, GP services and affordable housing scored higher.

Impact at the ballot box

It’s a top concern but will it actually shape the choices voters make on 4 July? It seems so.

Close to 1 in 20 adults in England say the crisis in dentistry will directly impact on how they vote.

That’s a number we never expected. And when England has over 40 million adults of voting age we can’t underplay its potential significance.

We’ve fought to push dentistry to the top of the political and media agenda. And from what we’re seeing there appears to be cold fury among many voters looking for tangible solutions.

It’s easy to understand why we’re here. On national issues voters are citing the cost of living and health as their top priorities. In dentistry access and cost of living crises are colliding, and thus far Government hasn’t stepped up to the plate.

Certainly, when it comes to the modest changes we have seen to date 80% say Government should be doing more.

The barriers are plain to see. Respondents say dentistry is the hardest to access of NHS services with 71% describing it as difficult, compared to 64% for GPs, and less than half for A&E.

And patients are paying the price for this indifference. 1 in 5 say they have experienced pain for extended periods relating to their mouth or teeth since lockdown. 7% say they have attempted some form of DIY dentistry.

A plan of action

It’s why we’ve called on all parties to offer real urgency and ambition to save the service and put a halt to widening inequalities.

We’ve set out our key priorities for the next parliament, on ending the access crisis, halting the exodus from the workforce and refocusing on prevention.

We’re clear real progress hinges on a decisive break from the discredited NHS contract dentists in England work to.

We don’t know what shape the next UK Government will take, but our message goes to all parties, and to all candidates.

We need more than tweaks if this service is going to survive.

As the campaign continues, we will be asking members in England to help us reach out to candidates, on the left, right and centre.

Dentistry is now a top issue on the doorstep because millions have no options.

Politicians might lose their seats if they fail to act, but voters risk losing this service for good.

General election 2024

Ask your next MP to make NHS dentistry a priority

Dentistry is set to be a headline issue in the UK General Election. Polling from YouGov shows, that as a local concern, voters are placing dentistry above traditional doorstep issues like schools, and even crime. Our message goes to all parties: We need more than tweaks if NHS dentistry is going to survive. Help us urge your local candidates to commit to making dentistry a top priority on 4 July.
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