Haywards Heath dentist sad to stop treating NHS patients but says ‘terrible’ contracts need to be reworked

A Mid Sussex dentist said he is sad he has had to stop treating NHS patients.
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Principal dental surgeon Dr Sami Butt, from S3 Dental in Haywards Heath, said the practice stopped seeing NHS patients in April 2023.

He said the NHS contract has not been handed back but they have stopped doing NHS work.

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Dr Butt said the reasons behind many dentists stopping NHS work are ‘a massive workforce shortage’ for NHS dentists nationally and ‘terrible’ NHS dentistry contracts.

Principal dental surgeon Dr Sami Butt, from S3 Dental in Haywards HeathPrincipal dental surgeon Dr Sami Butt, from S3 Dental in Haywards Heath
Principal dental surgeon Dr Sami Butt, from S3 Dental in Haywards Heath

He said: “For us to get back to work we’d need a workforce, but that workforce is only going to come when there's a better contract.”

Dr Butt said one problem with NHS contracts is dentists needing to hit at least 96 per cent of their target of UDAs (units of dental activity) to receive full funding. He said UDAs do not accurately measure the treatment a patient receives, adding: “It doesn’t make a difference how much treatment you do on your patient, in reality it’s how many patients you see that allows you to hit your target.”

Dr Butt also said it is difficult to run a business with NHS work because ‘the complexity of the work has no relation to what you're getting paid’ with multiple jobs not resulting in much more money.

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He said: “You could be doing really complex work, which takes a lot of time to do, lots of things and lots of expenses, which the practice and the dentists, have to bear themselves.”

He added: “It’s like me saying ‘you’re working Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, but because it’s the same work you’re doing, or the same project you’re doing, we’re just going to pay you for one day’s work’.”

Dr Butt said it is ‘terrible’ he cannot see NHS patients anymore because his practice is family-run and has seen ‘whole generations of patients come through’.

But he added: “We have to earn a living and I have to make sure that as a business we remain profitable.”

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Dr Butt said the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on the workforce has been significant too while the prices of many materials manufactured outside the UK have gone up.

A NHS Sussex spokesperson said: “Improving patient access to NHS dental care is a top priority for us. We have been working alongside dental professionals in Sussex to transform NHS dental care and have taken a number of actions to make improvements. We have, and are, listening to feedback from our communities about the difficulties they have in accessing dental care, and we know that some patients in Sussex struggle to access routine NHS dentistry. This has been particularly true in West Sussex due to a high number of dental contract hand-backs.

“To start to address this, we recently awarded a new contract in Worthing, which will increase the number of dentist appointments available and have secured more NHS dental care from three dental practices in Adur and Worthing. In East Sussex, urgent and emergency dental care has been set-up for patients who have not recently seen an NHS dentist; and across the whole of Sussex, work is ongoing to help meet the most urgent needs of adults and children where access is most challenging.”

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