Wales: Fresh hopes for the future of NHS dentistry?
20 July 2022
The Senedd Health and Social Care Committee recently announced that it will be conducting a consultation on NHS dentistry over the summer which will be followed by an inquiry to review the evidence in the autumn. We welcome the consultation which we hope will provide some meaningful answers to the many questions about dentistry that Members of Senedd (MSs) have been putting to the Health Minister Baroness Morgan over the first half of 2022.
First Minister, Mark Drakeford, has also spoken in Plenary about the challenges facing NHS dentistry but ministers' answers have so far avoided addressing the fundamental cause behind the issues of patient access and service capacity, namely chronic under-investment. While we welcome the CDO's continuing efforts with contract reform, this is not a panacea for the challenges being experienced in high street NHS dentistry and does not attempt to address the patient back-log in community dentistry.
The scope of the consultation is wide-ranging and will include access to NHS dentistry and the treatment backlog in primary dental care, hospital, and orthodontic services. Oral health inequalities will be addressed alongside issues with recruitment and retention of dentists including in rural areas and areas of high need.
The consultation will also examine the scope for further expansion of the Community Dental Service as well as Welsh Government spend on NHS dentistry, including investment in ventilation and future-proofing practices. The impact of the cost-of-living crisis on the provision of and access to dental services in Wales will also be a high priority.
We have been gathering your views and experiences and will continue to do so over the summer in preparation of our evidence:
- We conducted two surveys in 2021 on the mental health experiences of dentists and reported our findings widely, presenting them to the Welsh Dental Committee
- We conducted a rapid survey in March about dentists' views on the contract reform offer for this financial year and shared your many concerns with the office of the CDO
- WGDPC held an open evening on 4 July to hear how well practices are coping with the reform volumetric measures and it was clear that many practices in that poll were putting in additional resources to help to meet targets, which is not a sustainable position.
We have been invited to attend an oral evidence session in October at the Senedd to follow up on these important issues. Your views are vital to help shape our evidence, so please check your inbox as we will be sending you further surveys to obtain detailed views on all these issues and more. This is a pivotal year for NHS dentistry, and it is vital to make sure your voice is heard.