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A damning verdict on NHS dentistry

"Unacceptable in the 21st century": the Health and Social Care Committee verdict on NHS dentistry in England has really pulled no punches.

The cross-party report has heeded our calls for urgent and fundamental reform, and now we need to see action.

It cites damning evidence from our members on the exodus from the NHS, and it has taken on board many of our key recommendations to stem the flow.

It presses for nothing less than a wholesale break from the 2006 contract and spells out where we must go next.

As we have long argued it requires an end to a system that puts government targets first, with a new focus on prevention, and person-centred care. MPs have backed our call for a system based on weighted capitation, which will also give support to the patients who need us most. The Committee has also called for a permanent ring-fencing of the dental budget and for adequate resources to underpin the forthcoming recovery plan.

"From reform to funding the Committee has provided an instruction manual to save NHS dentistry," says General Dental Practice Committee Chair, Shawn Charlwood.

"The real question now is whether government or opposition are ready to use it. Failure to act will condemn this service to oblivion."

The report quite rightly states that any approach the Government might take to 'tie-ins' is conditional on first delivering fundamental reform to a broken system. It also highlights the issues with workforce planning given the effective absence of accurate data. It recommends a dental workforce survey to find out how many full and part time equivalents are working in NHS dentistry, so we can actually pinpoint where the 'dental deserts' actually are.

Our evidence to the Committee spelled out all these problems and offered tangible solutions. Now we need the government to sign up and save this service.

Over 1,300 dentists have already joined us in pressing Health Secretary Steve Barclay to act.

The clock is ticking on NHS dentistry. We are continuing to put pressure on government to honour its pledge to fast track a 'recovery plan', and to ensure meaningful reform of the NHS dental contract.