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Health Committee concludes contract not fit for purpose

We welcome the conclusions of the Health and Social Care Committee inquiry which has dubbed the system underpinning NHS dentistry in England as not “fit for purpose”.

They have also pledged to hold an inquiry into the crisis in dental services.

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 news comes just days after government announced only marginal tweaks to the widely discredited NHS contract, in which dentists are remunerated for hitting targets that often bear little relation to the work carried out. The tweaks change none of the fundamentals in a system that provides access for barely half the population and puts government targets ahead of patient care.

The Health Committee made the same judgement in 2008 and we have 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.”