BDA reveals ‘access crisis’ for NHS patients in Wales

BDA reveals ‘access crisis’ for NHS patients in Wales

Only one in six dental practices in Wales are offering treatment to new adult patients on the NHS, according to research by the BDA, which is campaigning for a change in the way dentists are paid. This is causing an "access crisis," they said But The Welsh Government said it was disappointing that BDA Wales had failed to recognise the significant changes they were making as part of “on-going dental contract reforms".

The Welsh Assembly’s health committee has recommended a complete change, and the end to the target-driven system. The Welsh Government has said it was reforming the contract with dentists. Its spokesman said the BDA was actively involved in this programme and the changes had been welcomed by the 94 practices across Wales who were already participating. He said there were over 35,000 more patients receiving NHS dental care than five years ago, but they were working to reach a position "where everyone in Wales who wants access to NHS dental care can get it"

A large variation between different health board areas was found by BDA researchers when they contacted practices in April. In the Hywel Dda health board, which covers Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire, no practices were taking on new adults on the NHS and only one out of 45 was taking on new children. Across Wales, the BDA said just over 40% of practices reported taking daily inquiries from new patients asking for appointments. One practice in the Cardiff and Vale health board area said they received more than 60 calls a day from would-be patients.

Lauren Harrhy, a dentist with her own practice in Pontypool said about 95% of her patients are NHS, but the practice has had to stop taking on more of this type of patient as they "just don’t have capacity", adding that they have also given up maintaining a waiting list. "We just don’t have the funding, don’t have the time, don’t have the space," she told BBC Radio Wales.  

Chair of the BDA’s Welsh general dental practice committee Tom Bysouth, said a "broken" NHS contract was fuelling a recruitment and retention crisis and called on the Welsh Government and health boards to change the system. For too many families in Wales, NHS dentistry is now just a nice idea rather than a reality they can depend on," he added. "We’ve found practices giving up on even going through the motions with waiting lists. NHS patients are left with few options but to travel or miss out on the care they need."

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