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​NHS Dentistry: Crisis mounts as patients offered appointments in Aug 2020

17 September 2019


The BDA has called for urgent action from government, as the growing recruitment crisis in the service has left patients in Cornwall facing 12 month waits for an NHS dental appointment.


Reports from Penzance suggest check-ups cancelled by text, with August 2020 offered as the next available window for care for an appointment for a patient with a chipped tooth. The corporate chain Bupa has explained it has been unable to fill vacancies. data currently shows no practices within a 120-mile round trip from the town are currently accepting new NHS adult or child patients. 


Access issues have mounted in recent years, as recruitment and retention problems have worsened. Three out of five dental practitioners in England say they intend to reduce their NHS work, or stop entirely, in the next five years. Over a million new patients in England have tried and failed to secure appointments in England according to BDA analysis of official figures. 


The House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee is currently preparing an enquiry in light of mounting access problem across the country. In June a spate of closures left Portsmouth - the most densely populated metropolitan area in England - with no NHs practices taking on new patients, and families facing ferry rides to secure NHS care. 


Dentist leaders blame failure to reform an NHS contract that caps patient numbers, and provides funding to reach little over half the population. They cite sustained cuts of over £500 million in government contributions since 2010 that have left the service ever more reliant on sky rocketing patient charges, which only serves to discourage attendance among lower income groups. 


The latest NHS Dental Statistics showed the lowest number of patients attending an NHS dentist in a decade, with just 50.2 per cent of adults seeing a dentist in the last two years - a drop from 52.5 per cent less than a year ago. 


Chair of the BDA's General Dental Practice Committee Dave Cottam said:


"If you've broken a tooth the offer of a dental appointment a year away is nothing short of an insult. 


"This is just the latest evidence of the crisis facing NHS dentistry. Millions of patients risk losing out, as budgets are squeezed and vacancies are left unfilled. 


"We will only see progress when ministers stop treating dentistry as an optional extra, and deliver the reform and investment this service desperately needs."


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