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​The Missing Piece: BDA sets out 2019 manifesto for oral health

15 November 2019


The BDA has called on all parties to stop treating oral health as the missing piece in health policy, as it launches its 2019 manifesto.

Setting out its key priorities for the next parliament, the Association has built on work that has secured a Health Committee Enquiry into NHS dentistry, forced government to change tack on fines, and helped secure extension of the Practitioner Health Programme to dentists.

In a call for a joined-up approach, the BDA has backed parallel action around three core priorities:  


  • A valued workforce Provide support to attract and retain talent. Make NHS dentists part of the NHS family, through tried-and-tested initiatives that recognise and reward commitment.
  • Remove barriers to care Tackle the obstacles standing in the way of patient care, through a long-term funding settlement for NHS dentistry.
  • Put prevention first Invest to save, by tackling inequalities, and focusing on prevention - not just cure.  

The BDA is already actively engaging with the major parties, and is leading with calls for support and workforce initiatives extended to other health professions to be applied consistently to dentists. 

The latest BDA survey indicates half of dentists (50.3%) are actively considering reducing NHS hours to avoid exposure to pensions tax charges, and the BDA is pressing for the profession to be extended the same flexibilities offered to medics.

In a bid to stem the ongoing recruitment and retention crisis the BDA has said lessons must also be learned from successes such as the GP Targeted Enhanced Recruitment Scheme, alongside the restoration of commitment payments. Currently the lowest levels of morale are among practitioners with the highest NHS commitment.

Dentist leaders have called time on the decade-long freeze on the dental budget, an end to inflation busting charge increases, and extension and simplification of NHS charge exemptions.


Funding has failed keep pace with both population growth and inflation, with the service in England operating on a lower budget - in cash terms - than it received in 2010/11 (then £2.814 billion).

BDA Chair Mick Armstrong said: 

"Our message to politicians of all parties is that oral health can no longer be the missing piece in health planning and budgets.


"We need a joined-up approach to prioritise the nation's oral health. Tooth decay and gum disease are the most prevalent – but preventable – diseases in Britain. Oral health is key to overall health, and dentistry cannot remain in a silo.

"This 'Cinderella Service' continues to operate with less funding than it received in 2010 and thus, by default, private dentistry is growing to fil the void. 

"The oral health gap between rich and poor isn't closing, patients are struggling to secure access, and the service faces a mounting recruitment and retention crisis.

"This document doesn't just cover our concerns for the next four weeks of campaigning. It reflects our belief that real progress will requires the next government to look at the workforce, funding and public health together."