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Half of dentists have cut NHS commitment with more to come

Both the government and the opposition need to step up and offer a plan for England, as the results from our latest survey reveal over half of dentists in England (50.3%) report having reduced NHS commitments since the start of the pandemic.

Nearly 2,000 dentists responded to our survey, with 74% stating an intention to reduce - or further reduce - NHS work. 43% indicate an intention to go fully private, with 42% likely to change career or seek early retirement. Over 1 in 10 are stating an intention to move to practice abroad.

This movement is not being tracked by official data, which counts heads, rather than commitment, and dentists who are doing only one NHS check-up a year carry the same weight as an NHS full-timer.

Every vacancy translates into thousands of patients unable to access care. And our analysis of government data indicates that an unmet need for dentistry in 2022 stood at over 11 million people, or almost one in four of England's adult population. It's the 6 million who tried and failed to get an appointment, and the 3.6 who didn't try, believing an appointment would not be available. It's the 1 million put off by cost, and 500,000 on waiting lists.

Patients are struggling to get NHS appointments and are also being put off by the fear of either not getting an appointment or the cost.

"NHS dentistry is running out of road" says GDPC Chair Shawn Charlwood. "Every day a broken system remains in force we lose dentists, while millions struggle to access care.

"This crisis won't be fixed with soundbites or tweaks at the margins. To turn the corner, we need a plan based on real reform and fair funding."

All parties need to commit to reverse these trends. That must begin with commitments to reform of the discredited NHS dental contract, underpinned by adequate investment.