Throughout 2021, the British Dental Association [BDA] has been at the forefront of moves to tell politicians of the challenges facing dental services across the whole of the UK. It joined with Healthwatch England in calling on the Chancellor to provide vital funding for the recovery and rebuild of services, a move backed by 40 cross-party MPs.
On October 18, BDA chair, Eddie Crouch joined and spoke to members of the Toothless in Suffolk campaign group who took to the streets of Bury St Edmunds to demand better provision of NHS dentistry in the county.
Newspaper The Morning Star reported on the march and spoke to Steve Marsling, campaign co-ordinator and chairman of the East Suffolk branch of the Communist Party of Britain. He said, “How has it come to this? In 1948 the NHS provided dentists for everyone, free at the point of use. Now we don’t have a dentist at all.”
The paper also reported that Mark Jones, co-ordinator of the Toothless in Suffolk campaign and secretary of the East Suffolk branch of the Communist Party of Britain explained that the campaign was not explicitly tied to party activity, despite being founded by CPB members.
He said, “We wanted a broad church, we don’t want to alienate people. The Toothless campaign was deliberately set up in a way that is scalable across counties. Our intention is for it to go national.”
On November 5, it went national. It is now known as Toothless in England, @englandsteeth and has issued six demands to the Government some of which, but not all would be acceptable to the profession.
Toothless in Suffolk and Toothless in England have ceased to be a local protest group raising the issue of patients being unable to access NHS dentistry.
They have become a political movement, with identified aims, which the BDA can no longer support.
Within its constitution the BDA asserts that it is free from any party political allegiance and must maintain neutrality. The BDA is on very thin ice if it supports such an overt political movement as Toothless in England has become.
Toothless in Suffolk on November 5 went to see commissioners from @NHSEastEngland asking them to award eight new contracts in the region and provide short term relief through mobile dental clinics.
Worthy those these aims may be, they are in fact negotiating with NHS England and putting forward proposals which the profession may or may not support.
However much the BDA may wish to support local groups, such as Healthwatch, who are campaigning for a better service for patients, it remains an organisation with the interests of its members, both those in private and NHS practice, at its heart.
GDPUK says the BDA can no longer support a movement, created by officers of the Communist Party of Britain, which has its own political agenda.
Image credit - Sue Thompson under CC licence
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