NHS dentistry facing ‘crisis of access’, says inquiry: report comes after Sussex dentist warned of ‘ticking time bomb’

An inquiry has told the government that NHS dentistry is facing a ‘crisis of access’ and has recommended ‘urgent and fundamental reform’.
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A recent House of Commons Committee report (Ninth Report of Session 2022–23) published on Friday, July 14, said that the inquiry has heard stories of people in pain and distress because they are unable to see an NHS dentist.

“This is totally unacceptable in the 21st Century,” said the report. “More people, including children, are experiencing poor oral health, and this has a subsequent impact on their physical health and social wellbeing, and leads to dependency on expensive secondary care interventions, placing further pressures on secondary care.”

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The report comes after a Sussex dentist warned of a ‘ticking time bomb’ in December when the Health and Social Care Committee found that 90 per cent of UK practices are not accepting new adult NHS patients.

An inquiry has told the government that NHS dentistry is facing a 'crisis of access'An inquiry has told the government that NHS dentistry is facing a 'crisis of access'
An inquiry has told the government that NHS dentistry is facing a 'crisis of access'

Following this survey, the Commons select committee, which scrutinises the work of the Department of Health and Social Care, said it had launched an inquiry into dentistry.

Dr Sachin Anand, principal partner and senior clinician at Dentalessence in Station Road, Burgess Hill, said in December 2022: “It is a very difficult time for patients as well as practices (in the UK). The powers that be (central government) seem to fail to realise that this situation is a ticking time bomb as recruitment and funding are in short supply.”

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He said: “We have not been able to take on new NHS patients for some time now due to a lack of funding.”

Dr Anand said this was the situation before Covid, but after the pandemic it is even more difficult because ‘targets and red tape’ make it harder to fulfil NHS contracts.

He added: “Many dentists have left and gone back to their respective countries and so it seems that a lot of practices have decided they are just not being listened to and so have now opted to hand their contracts back.”

He also said that trying to recruit is a ‘massive problem’, which adds to delays in patients being able to access NHS dentistry.

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Dr Anand said in December that, ideally, he would like to see the current cap on dental contract funding lifted and said recruitment issues need to be resolved. He also called the process of allowing a dentist from abroad to work in the UK ‘long winded’ and believes this acts as a deterrent.

The recent House of Commons Committee report added: “The Government needs to undertake urgent and fundamental reform if people are to receive the dental and oral healthcare they need. It is frustrating to have to return to recommendations made by our predecessor Committee 15 years ago that still haven’t been implemented.”

It said: “Without rapid and timely action, we are concerned about the future of NHS dental services and the patients who desperately need access to them.”

Have you had trouble accessing NHS dentistry services? Let us know at [email protected].