July 14, 2024

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Four out of five dentists in England not taking on new NHS patients, research shows | Dentists

Four out of five dentists in England not taking on new NHS patients, research shows | Dentists

Four out of five dentists in England are not taking on new NHS patients, new research shows.

The stark reminder of the acute difficulty facing people seeking treatment for their teeth comes amid a warning from health experts that “universal dental care has likely gone for good”.

Overall 82.8% of dental surgeries are refusing to let adults seeking NHS care become a patient, while 71.1% are refusing to let under-18s do so, analysis by Labour found.

The situation is so bad that only four of the 456 surgeries in the south-west of England are accepting new adult patients – less than one in 100 of those across the region.

Other areas with the highest proportion of practices that will not let adults join their patient list to receive NHS-funded care include the north-east (96.8%) and the east Midlands (94.3%).

“The Conservatives have left NHS dentistry to wither on the vine and now the service is barely worthy of the name,” said Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary. “Patients are told to go without or do it themselves, with DIY dentistry now shockingly common in Tory Britain.

“The slow death of dentistry is the ghost of Christmas future for the NHS if the Conservatives are given a fifth term.”

Labour based its findings on analysis of information provided by 4,969 of England’s 7,000 surgeries.

In a new report, the Nuffield Trust health thinktank warns that “NHS dentistry is at its most perilous point in its 75-year history”. Dentists provided almost 6m fewer courses of NHS-funded treatment last year than in 2019-20, the year before Covid hit, it said.

A funding squeeze, the Covid-19 pandemic, cost of living crisis, problems in access and “decades of policy neglect” have left NHS dental services looking increasingly threadbare, it added.

NHS dental services received more than £500m less in real terms in 2021/22 than in 2014/15. NHS-funded care is so hard to obtain in some places that some health service areas are not spending all the money they have been allocated, despite the huge need.

The British Dental Association (BDA), which represents dentists, said the report “reads like the last rites for NHS dentistry”.

Victoria Atkins, the health and social care secretary, last week said that “NHS dentistry should be accessible and available for all those who need it”. But the BDA accused her of not offering any plans to achieve that goal.

The government has promised to publish its long-awaited dental recovery plan “soon”. But the BDA claimed that the Treasury was blocking release of a plan the DHSC first promised back in April.