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The Health and Care Bill must reflect dentistry

Last week, Parliament held a first debate on the much-anticipated Health and Care Bill. This Bill aims to shift the responsibility for managing contracts for primary care services from NHS England to Integrated Care Boards (ICBs), which might have serious implications on the way NHS dentistry is delivered.

Three MPs spoke up on behalf of the profession, following our briefings on the importance of dentistry having a voice on the new ICBs.

As it stands, GPs are likely to be the only member from a primary care background on each Board. This is unfair and grossly misrepresents the sector: three quarters of primary care staff work within a non-GP health setting. With the crisis of poor NHS dental access reaching breaking point from Cornwall to Cumbria, it is unfathomable that the Boards responsible for commissioning local services may be devoid of the expertise of dentists.

In the run up to the debate we worked jointly with five sister organisations representing community pharmacy, optical, and audiology services to lobby for better representation of primary care in the new structures. The input from the three MPs who spoke up for dentistry was timely and essential.

Former Health Minister Steve Brine MP echoed our call for wider primary care representation on the Boards, and also expressed his support for the measures to increase water fluoridation.

Clive Lewis MP felt that in its current form, the Bill does little to address the problems with NHS dental access. Peter Aldous MP once again demonstrated his support for the dental workforce and called for increased investment to enable greater dental access – as well as lending his weight to the call for dentists to have a voice on Integrated Care Boards.

The Government intends that this wide-ranging Bill, which consists of 135 clauses, will lead to:

  • A reorganisation of the NHS - making it less bureaucratic and more accountable
  • Putting Integrated Care Systems on a statutory footing, with newly created Integrated Care Boards taking on responsibility for commissioning services (including for the first time, primary care)
  • Greater powers for the Secretary of State
  • The establishment of a Health Services Safety Investigations Branch
  • Restrictions to advertising of unhealthy foods
  • Measures to facilitate fluoridation of local water supplies.

We are currently dissecting the finer points of the Bill, prior to it being scrutinised in greater detail at Committee Stage in September. As the Bill makes its way through Parliament we will be providing targeted briefings to the Government, MPs and peers and fighting for the interests of BDA members, as well as trying to strengthen the public health measures included in the Bill.