Yesterday, the Labour frontbench proposed a New Clause to the Bill, currently before Parliament, which calls for measures to ensure universal access to NHS dentistry. This builds on the momentum of our joint letter with Healthwatch England and the cross-party letter from over 40 MPs to the Treasury about the crisis in the system.
Introducing this amendment, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister Alex Norris MP attacked the Government’s record on NHS dentistry. Quoting BDA research, he highlighted the savage cuts to dental budgets and called for a proportion of the recently pledged funding for NHS recovery to be earmarked for dentistry. He stressed the crisis in morale amongst the dental workforce and urged the Minister to get on with the critical work of contract reform.
“There is consensus that UDAs are long out of date and that after 15 years, it’s time to move away from them. We really need to get on with this, because there are lots of dentists waiting on that before making a judgement as to whether NHS dentistry is in their future or not,” he argued, adding “it is not a hyperbole when the BDA talk about “last chance saloon”, it is not a hyperbole to say that we will not have NHS dentistry in the medium term if we don’t have a course check."
The SNP health spokesperson Dr Philippa Whitford echoed his points on the chronic underfunding of dentistry in England, calling for capital investment in ventilation for dental practices and oral health prevention schemes. She lamented the return of the UDA system post-pandemic, calling it “an enormous missed opportunity to improve NHS dental access for everyone."
In his response, the Health Minister Edward Argar MP reiterated the Government’s commitment to contract reform, saying “transformation in NHS dentistry is essential” and stressing they wanted “to see a contract that is attractive for professionals”, but offered no specifics on when changes might be implemented.
BDA Chair Eddie Crouch said: "Both dentists and patients will thank MPs for not letting up after the missed opportunities in last week's budget.
"It's time for answers on what meaningful support is going to be offered to ensure this service can have a future. Ministers are offering boilerplate responses when we need a plan and ambition to rebuild services millions depend on."
As the Bill continues its passage through Parliament, we keep speaking and providing targeted briefings to the Government, MPs and Peers, fighting for the interests of dentists and patients, and trying to strengthen the public health measures included in the Bill.