NHS dentistry ‘a perfect storm for patients’ says BDA

NHS dentistry ‘a perfect storm for patients’ says BDA

Much media attention across the country has followed the publication of figures from the BDA which indicate that access problems for NHS dental services are now blighting communities across every English region. GDPC Chair Dave Cottam said: “Underfunding, failed contracts and recruitment problems are creating a perfect storm for patients.”

New analysis, using the last GP Survey, indicates over 1.4 million adult patients have tried and failed to access care – with a further 2 million estimated to have not tried in the belief they would be unable to secure an appointment, the BDA claims. With 130,000 reporting they are on waiting lists, and over 700,000 citing cost as a barrier, this brings a level of unmet need to over 4 million people, or nearly 1 in 10 of the adult population. The claims come during a fiercely fought General Election campaign, with health a major issue.

The BDA says that areas facing challenges have not hitherto experienced significant problems, with many of the worst affected areas in parts of London and the South East, including the overwhelming majority of London boroughs, Brighton, and parts of Kent and Surrey.

The government has acknowledged issues in a few ‘hotspot’ areas with a history of access problems – such as West Yorkshire, Cumbria and Cornwall. Data also indicates lower success rates among patients attempting to secure an appointment for the first time, the young, and ethnic minorities.

The BDA says these figures reflect the perfect storm facing patients, as budget cuts, contract failure and staffing problems bite. NHS dentistry is operating on a budget that has remained largely static since 2010, but with patients contributing a greater share each year through increasing NHS charges.

The BDA has called on all parties to remove barriers to care, address historic underfunding and deliver meaningful reform of the discredited NHS contract system. It has also welcomed the Labour Party’s proposals to take Band 1 treatments out of the charging system, but stressed any moves to improve access must be pursued in tandem with measures to support the workforce.
Chair of General Dental Practice at the BDA, Dave Cottam said: “Underfunding, failed contracts and recruitment problems are creating a perfect storm for patients. These access problems are no longer affecting a few ‘hotspots’, but are now the reality for millions across every English region.  
“The public are entitled to access care, but the system is stacked against them. They face practices struggling to fill vacancies, NHS charges designed to discourage attendance, while our contracts cap patient numbers. Those losing out are the patients who need us most. The next government owes it to them to ensure this service has a future.”

GP Survey

The GP Survey is carried out each year in a Ipsos MORI postal questionnaire of 2.3 million NHS GP patients.  This year it was conducted in January March 2019 and there was a response rate of 23% for dental questions. The results of the relevant questions are detailed below:

Q 49: When did you last try to get an NHS dental appointment for yourself? Within the past 2 years – 58.3%

Q 50: Last time you tried to get an appointment was it with a practice you had visited before? Yes – 89.5%

Q 51: Were you successful in getting an NHS dental appointment (those who have tried within last 2 years) Yes – 94.3%

Q 52: Overall how would you describe your experience of NHS dental services Good or very good – 85%

Q 53: Why haven’t you tried to get an NHS dental appointment in past 2 years?  (based on the 16.2% who have seen an NHS dentist more than 2 years ago and the 25.5% of patients who have never tried to get an NHS dental appointment):

  • Seen privately – 38.3%
  • Haven’t needed to see a dentist – 20.6%
  • Didn’t know I could see an NHS dentist – 12.6%
  • Don’t like going to dentist – 6.2%
  • Edentulous – 4.9%
  • NHS care too expensive – 4.5%
  • On a waiting list to see an NHS dentist – 0.8%
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