Government Evasive On Reducing ‘Colossal Backlog’

Government Evasive On Reducing ‘Colossal Backlog’

While the Secretary of State for Health was reminding the Commons that “this virus is diminished, but not defeated,” Members of Parliament were reminding Matt Hancock that the problems encountered by those who provide dental healthcare are also still not defeated.

During his Covid-19 Update to Parliament, Mr Hancock referred to a ‘brighter picture’ and said the average number of daily deaths due to the coronavirus is 25 – 98% down from the peak.

But Lilian Greenwood, Chair of the Commons Finance Committee said that while the gradual easing of restrictions  was both a ‘relief’  and ‘very welcome,’ she pointed out that the pandemic has caused a “Colossal backlog of unmet healthcare need, including dental care.”

Ms Greenwood said “Many people have been unable to access any treatment for dental problems, and check-ups have simply not been happening for more than a year now.”

She asked if Mr Hancock would  set out the steps he is taking to enable dentists to begin to clear that backlog of treatment.

“When there is already huge inequality in oral health and so many people are facing financial hardship, what is he doing to ensure that people do not miss out on vital preventive check-ups because they cannot afford them?”

Mr Hancock’s reply was largely evasive, saying that the Government maintained access to urgent dental treatment during the pandemic, and he pointed out that dentistry was not closed down during the second coronavirus peak.

The Secretary of State said “We have put in place an incentive to get dental practices really motoring” although he didn’t outline the exact nature of the incentive.  

He said “Of course there is infection prevention and control that needs to be updated as the prevalence of the disease comes down, but making sure that we have those check-ups is incredibly important, because it is one of the most important preventive measures there is, especially for children.”

Mr Hancock said that the Government’s proposals for more widespread water fluoridation “Is one of the biggest steps we can take to protect dental health.”

Julian Sturdy, Conservative MP for York Outer asked the Secretary of State what steps are being taken to reduce dental appointment waiting lists created by cancellations and postponements due to the covid-19 outbreak.

He also asked “What assessment his Department has made of the potential effect of waiting lists for NHS dental appointments on the cost of treatment where practices offer private appointments at higher rates.”

The written reply by  Jo Churchill, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care was equally evasive.  

She said “Dentists have been asked to maximise safe care, focussing on urgent care and vulnerable groups followed by overdue appointments. This has been underpinned by the setting of activity thresholds for full payment of NHS contractual value.”

“In addition, NHS England and NHS Improvement have provided a flexible commissioning toolkit to local commissioners to help focus the available capacity on those that need it most and to reduce oral health inequalities.”

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