Dentists: MP says UK’s leading chain ‘prioritising routine check-ups over urgent care’
09 February 2021
The British Dental Association has responded to claims made by Judith Cummins MP today that MyDentist, the UK’s leading dental chain, has instructed dentists to focus on routine check-ups over urgent care in order to achieve the NHS targets recently imposed by government.
The Bradford South MP, quoting from a leaked memo, said staff at MyDentist have been told by management to prioritise routine check-ups over patients requiring urgent treatment. The chain, currently owned by the IDH Group, is the largest dental provider in the UK, running over 600 practices, and prior to the pandemic provided care to more than 5 million people.
When previously challenged by Ms Cummins on the policy on 17 December the Health Secretary said “this is a good balanced programme, and I'm sure it will be implemented well.”
The BDA has condemned the current targets for forcing dentists to prioritise volume over need. Since 1 January 2021 NHS practices in England have faced steep financial penalties for failing to hit 45% of their pre-pandemic activity levels. It is easier to achieve these perverse targets through routine care, as opposed to time consuming urgent treatment, that the BDA say need to remain a priority.
The BBC had previously reported that an unnamed dental company had adopted this approach. The BDA has reiterated its belief the chain will not be alone in adopting this approach, given the ever-present threat of sanctions. It has urged the government to abandon this policy. MyDentist dispute Ms Cummins' claims.
Practices are continuing to operate at low capacity, to meet official guidelines designed to reduce risk of COVID transmission. More than three-quarters of practices have reported issues with staff availability since the New Year, with 39% citing COVID infection as having a high impact, with 53% citing staff self-isolation, and 42% problems in securing childcare owing to lack of clarity on their key worker status.
The Scottish Government has delayed their introducing targets for NHS dentists – albeit at less than half the English level - until at least June in the light of surging infection rates and tighter restrictions. The Welsh Government has not introduced any activity targets at all.
Shawn Charlwood, Chair of the British Dental Association’s General Dental Practice Committee said:
“This isn’t about the conduct of any one company, but the result of failed policy that places government targets ahead of patient need.
“An imposed system is limiting the options for the very people who need us most. These targets must be abandoned.”