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NHS dental statistics show a service on its last legs

We are calling for radical and urgent change for NHS dentistry in England, following the release of the latest NHS dental statistics.

The new figures show:

  • Just a third (34.1%) of adults in England saw an NHS dentist in the 24 months to 31 March 2022, compared to nearly half (49.6%) in the last full year prior to the pandemic.
  • 44.8% of children attended in the last year, down from 58.7% in 2019/20.
  • In 2021-22, just 26.4m courses of NHS dental treatment were delivered. This is only two-thirds of the average volumes delivered annually in the five years prior to COVID.

Since the start of the 2022/23 financial year dentists have been compelled to hit 100% of pre-pandemic activity, yet we understand there have been no gains in terms of the NHS dentistry delivered since 1 April.

"What we're seeing isn't a recovery," says BDA Chair Eddie Crouch, "but a service on its last legs."

"The Government will be fooling itself and millions of patients if it attempts to put a gloss on these figures."

After a decade of savage cuts, we have estimated it would take an extra £880m a year simply to restore resources to 2010 levels. The recently announced 'tweaks' to the NHS contract have had no new funding attached and will not meaningfully expand access or halt the exodus from the NHS.

Our recent work with the BBC has helped to underline the scale of the crisis, with 9 in 10 practices reporting they are unable to take on new adult patients on the NHS.

Lobbying work has helped to raise these issues at the Health and Social Care Committee in May, warning that NHS dentistry in England faced a 'slow death'. The Committee dubbed the contract 'not fit for purpose' and has pledged a dedicated inquiry.

While both the contenders for the Conservative leadership have pledged urgent reform, we're clear we need to see deeds not words. We will continue to press Ministers to step up and deliver much needed reform and fair funding for NHS dentistry.