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Dentistry under the spotlight: How can we improve the system for patients?

Blog Author Mick Armstrong

Blog Date 15/08/2019



It has been more than a decade since the House of Commons Health Committee held a formal inquiry into NHS dentistry.

Then, as now, it was against a backdrop of access problems, bad headlines, and a feeling familiar to many colleagues that we simply cannot go on as we are.

We have pulled out all the stops to push NHS dentistry up the political agenda and now this profession has a unique chance to shine a light on a system that is failing patients and practitioners across England, by responding to this new inquiry.

What is the BDA doing?

We want to ensure all our members in England have a voice in this inquiry.

First off, we will be providing written evidence. Already BDA members have provided us with the key facts we need to make our case. 

Your experiences on recruitment, retention, access and patient care have been front and centre in the lobbying and media work that have made this inquiry a reality.

Fundamentally, a service that cannot attract and keep the brightest and best will not have a future. So, it's about the vacancies that are going unfilled. The perversity that those doing the most NHS work are paying the price through low morale. Contracts and clawback, underfunding and under-commissioning.

And the net result is patients facing epic journeys or 12-month waiting lists to access the care they need. 


What can members do?

The BDA has just 4000 words to play with for our response. We can provide a national picture, but we know every member, every BDA Branch and Section and every Local Dental Committee can help us by providing their own views and ideas. 

The questions being posed will be familiar to any dentist. They include: 

  • What is the state of the relationship between the NHS and dentistry?
  • How satisfactory are the arrangements for the provision of dental services by the NHS?
  • Are current arrangements contributing to the widening of health inequality?
  • How could access to NHS dentistry be improved?
  • What issues are affecting the wider dental workforce?
  • What needs to be included in, or removed from, the forthcoming NHS dental contract? 
  • Is there enough focus on prevention in dentistry and what are the avoidable harms that could be addressed?

So, if you have any suggestions or answers to any or all of these questions, don't miss out. 

This is your chance to help us change things: this is about the care you provide, the challenges you face and the oral health of your community.

A full list of questions is available on the Committee's website and you can contact us if you need any advice or guidance. 

You have until Friday 13 September 2019 to submit via the Committee's online portal.  

Please email a copy of your response to us as well, as this will help us make a stronger case, collectively.


Why does it matter?

This is our chance to focus the press and Parliament's attention on the challenges dentists face every day and the need for change. 

But it's also about finding concrete solutions. The 2008 Health Committee inquiry was decisive in kick starting the independent review into NHS dentistry. In the year that followed the much-missed Prof Jimmy Steele did much of the intellectual heavy-lifting on what remains unfinished business on contract reform

We know the Government has yet to wake up to the full scale of the crisis in NHS dental services. But together, on contracts and funding, on access and recruitment, we can use this inquiry to keep up the pressure and make a key point. 

This is our chance to show that problems made in Westminster can be fixed in Westminster.

Mick Armstrong, Chair
BDA Principal Executive Committee


Working for you

We will continue to campaign for a reformed NHS dental contract. If you'd like to be kept up to date with our progress:

Through our policy and campaigning work, we ensure that the concerns of all sections of the profession are raised and that dentists' voices are heard at a national level.

With each new member, our voice and our influence grows. Add your voice, join today.