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Crisis in dentistry: MPs back reform, but government yet to wake up

20 October 2022

The British Dental Association has greeted the show of unity from MPs today on fixing the broken NHS dental service but lamented the government's failure to commit to meaningful reform.

Members backed a cross-party motion calling on government to set out an action plan to address the access and workforce crises in NHS dentistry, and to report back to the House on progress in three months.

The government failed to outline any meaningful steps to bring the service back from the brink, simply revisiting minor 'tweaks' to the discredited NHS contract announced before the summer recess, which had no new funding attached. The BDA believe these marginal changes – most of which are yet to take effect - will do nothing to improve access or halt the exodus of dentists from the NHS.

MPs joined the BDA's call for a decisive break from the failed contract, underpinned by sustainable investment. Dentist leaders issued an open letter to the new Chancellor following his recent emergency statement, stressing that without meaningful investment a reform process looks doomed from the outset, and that any further 'efficiency savings' will prove a fatal blow to the service, and only further erode access to care for the public.

The NHS contract, which puts government targets ahead of patient care and caps funding to barely half the population, was recently dubbed by Parliament's Health and Social Care Committee as 'not fit for purpose'. In his former role as chair the committee, Jeremy Hunt had been an advocate of reform in dentistry and a fully funded workforce plan for the NHS.

Shawn Charlwood, Chair of the British Dental Association's General Dental Practice Committee said:

"MPs on both sides of the House have recognised the urgency here, but the government has yet to wake up.

"Quick fixes and tinkering at the margins won't save NHS dentistry. Our patients need to see fair funding and real reform. Any further cuts will condemn this service to oblivion."