LDC reps Shawn Charlwood, Leah Farrell, Nick Stolls and Shanta Mestry at LDC Officials' Day 2019, speaking up for dentistry (c) BDA
The first December general election campaign since 1923 is now well underway.
The 'B' word is of course playing a big role in the campaign, and indeed some people would have you believe this is just a single issue election. However, the very nature of a "general" election means that everything is on the table.
So, it's vital that we as dentists take this opportunity to make a strong case for sorting out the current mess that is NHS dentistry. This is a cross-party issue.
Already we've ensured dentistry is on the agenda this election. And to help you, we've produced our manifesto for NHS dentistry, The Missing Piece - please have a read.
It sets out the problems clearly and succinctly and is designed to help you make the case with candidates. So please when any PPCs (Prospective Parliamentary Candidates) come knocking, in the run up to 12 December, don't be shy.
So, find out who's after your vote. They will be out on the streets, on your doorstep, and at hustings events.
Please stand up for dentistry: introduce yourself as a dentist, tell them about the issues in our manifesto and ask them, if they are elected, will they speak up for dentists and the nation's oral health in Parliament?
This is your chance to really make a difference.
Put the candidates on the spot
Political party manifestos can be light on detail, particularly on issues like dentistry. So local hustings are a great opportunity to grill candidates, both on their party commitments, and the issues they'll champion, if elected.
It's simple really – if your community faces specific challenges, get the candidates to spell out their plans.
Candidates from all parties will be answering questions from voters up until polling day. You can find out details in your local media.
Pose the right questions
Be prepared to raise your concerns with your PPCs.
Remember to share your personal experiences as a dentist so that they know how the decisions that the UK Government makes can affect you and the people for whom you care. Come armed with examples and evidence to make your case.
Mind your language
Remember many among the public (and most politicians) don't know how dentistry works and the complexities of the commissioning process. It's important to cut through the jargon with audiences that won't always know their UDAs from their UOAs.
Even terms such as 'caries' can represent a barrier. So wherever possible, keep it simple.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Families across this consistency struggle to access NHS dentistry? What do you intend to do about it?
There are areas of the country where people have to travel for over a hundred miles to access NHS services. Many constituencies have no practices accepting new NHS patients at all.
You can support this question with statistics for your constituency on access and on the mounting challenges recruiting and retaining talent in the service.
We've gathered the evidence - please get in touch if you would like to find out more on the data for your area.
2. Chronic underfunding has left practices facing closure and patients without the care they need. Will you back investment in NHS services?
Dentistry is unique in the NHS – operating on less budget than it received in 2010. Patients are paying more in charges, as ministers pay less. Meanwhile practices struggle to hit targets, and clawback money disappears into a black hole.
NHS spending is a big issue in this election. And this service can't be left behind.
We need to see the end of clawback being lost from the frontline, so money set aside to NHS dentistry is actually spent on NHS dentistry.
We've already worked with MPs across England to get cash reinvested in services. Get in touch and we can tell you how about the situation in your area.
3. Tooth decay remain the number one reason for child hospital admissions. Will you help us support prevention?
Every party wants to talk about 'prevention', but we want to see real commitment.
Will they support expand the sugar tax, and spending the proceeds on programmes to support children's oral health? Will they back a truly national programme, like we see in Wales and Scotland? And from decay rates to the price your local NHS is paying for GA extractions, we've got the numbers to help you.
These are just a few ideas. Please let us know how you get on, or if you have any questions about this work.
Robert Cann, Public Affairs Adviser
NHS Dentistry: The Missing Piece
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.