NHS10-year plan leaves dentistry on the rocks

NHS10-year plan leaves dentistry on the rocks

NHS England says its new 10-year plan could save up to 500,000 lives by focusing on prevention and early detection. GPs, mental health and community care will get the biggest funding increases to shift the focus away from hospitals. But it has come in for criticism from the BDA who said that dentistry had been ‘overlooked’ in the Long-Term Plan.

The BDA expressed disappointment that despite a ‘heavily trailed focus’ on both primary care and prevention, the government had failed to outline a coherent strategy for dental services within its 136-page NHS 10 Year Plan. But the inclusion of children’s oral health in the Plan was welcomed by the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry (BSPD) which has been campaigning for oral health to be recognised as a marker for general well-being and a priority for prevention.

The BSPD continued: “Although the Plan contains no chapter or even paragraph heading for oral health, the fact that it is mentioned in the context of holistic care for children represents significant progress, considering that it has been excluded from earlier strategies for the NHS.

“The document states that local areas should design and implement models of care that will “support health development by providing holistic care across local authority and NHS services, including primary care, community services, speech and language therapy, school nursing, oral health, acute and specialised services.”

The BSPD also notes that dentistry is also included in references to children with learning disabilities. The NHS plan commits to investing to ensure that this cohort of children have needs met in relation to eyesight, hearing and dental services.

BDA reports on Plan

The BDA reported that the Plan made reference to supporting dental services via its Starting Well initiative, claiming it supports 24,000 dentists across England to “see more children from a young age to form good oral health”. In reality the programme is not receiving any new investment, and is active in a handful of wards in just 13 English local authorities.

They commentated that: “Since taking office Health Secretary Matt Hancock has consistently pledged to put prevention at the heart of NHS strategy – but has failed to invest in public health activity or make any tangible commitment to dentistry.”

They continued: “The plan also failed to address the NHS’s workforce issues, including the growing recruitment and retention crisis in the dentistry, fuelled by the discredited NHS dental contract. The system based on hitting tough activity targets for curative treatment, has helped fuel access issues across England and has stifled prevention. BDA surveys have estimated that 65% of practices who tried recruiting in 2017 experienced difficulties filling vacancies, leaving patients without access to NHS care.

BDA Chair Mick Armstrong said: “Warm words on prevention will ring hollow as the government fails to acknowledge the challenges facing 24,000 NHS dentists. The Prime Minister launched her strategy at a paediatric hospital, serving a city that spends £1 million a year extracting rotten teeth from children. We have faced year on year cuts, a recruitment and retention crisis, and have patients travelling over 50 miles to secure access to basic services. Now a single unfunded scheme is being offered as a substitute for proper resources and a coherent plan.

“If government really intends to put the mouth back in the body they need to work with this profession on implementation. The alternative is to keep treating dentistry as an afterthought, and let the NHS pay the price.”

Gareth McAleer
13 years too late !
The NHS stopped providing Dentistry in 2006 !

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