The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

A snapshot of UK dentistry shows an example of the profession at its best, as well as more familiar difficulties.

The good news comes from Manchester where a refugee charity and Stockport practice have teamed up to help a group that is often forgotten. According to Manchester World, the Manchester Refugee Support Network (MRSN) badly needed dental assistance, with many of its service users requiring urgent dental care.

It put out a plea for help and the Precision Dental Clinic in Stockport has now donated many hours of vital treatment.  Apart from urgent care the team has also been educating the refugee children about their dental health.

Over 100 hours of treatment have now been delivered including fillings and bridges. Oral care packs, and tooth paste were also given to all the patients seen.

The clinic has pledged to donate more time to MRSN and this will include supporting Ukrainian refugees who arrive in Manchester.

A spokesperson for MRSN said, “We cannot thank Precision Dental Clinic enough for the work they have done, the compassion they have shown to refugees and asylum seekers, who in many cases had lost all hope of receiving any form of dental work.”

Meanwhile there is bad news from Scotland.

The Herald reviewed the annual report by Public Health Scotland (PHS). This showed that NHS dental activity was running at about 70% of pre pandemic levels when February 2022 was compared with February 2019. In terms of monthly numbers of treatments, the pre pandemic total of around 1 million had only recovered to about 600,000.

The more recent figure included thousands of claims for telephone triage, revealing an even greater drop in delivery of operative treatment.

Analysis suggested that the recovery was uneven with “an increase in inequalities” and that those from deprived areas were less likely to have contact with NHS dentists than those from better off ones.

The report did not take into account the increase in numbers of Scots having private treatment.

Scottish Labour Covid recovery and health spokesperson, Jackie Baillie, commented, “This damming report lays bare the crisis engulfing NHS dentistry in Scotland.”

The PHS report showed that, based upon the period December 2021 to February 2022,  extractions had seen a strong recovery with 30,000 a month, compared to 38,500 pre-Covid. Root treatments in contrast were running at half of the pre pandemic levels. Numbers of prescriptions for antibiotics and analgesics were three times greater than pre pandemic. Despite this a spokesperson for the Scottish government was “confident” that the changes in infection control guidance, and the latest incentive payment scheme, would help achieve a return to normal levels of activity.

The ugly truth was spelled out in Wales by GDPUK contributor Dr Russell Gidney, who was interviewed on ITV to get his perspective on the access problems there.

Across Wales there was a drop in NHS courses of treatment completed, from 2.3 million in 2019 to around 540,000 in 2020 -2021. Examination numbers plummeted by over 90% reflecting the move towards prioritising urgent care.

The backlog now means that routine cases may be waiting at least two years before being seen.  Dr Gidney, whose practice was now seeing similar numbers to those before the pandemic, said that dentistry had significantly changed.

He explained, “There’s never been enough dentistry. As a rule of thumb about half the population are with a practice and the NHS budget is capped. So it’s not a case of me saying I’ve got another 1,000 patients here,  I’ll get another dentist in, there simply isn’t the funding.”

Dr Gidney went on to reveal the fundamental issue, “We can’t start doing any more work unless there is more budget to accommodate more people.”

Dr Gidney is also Chair of the Welsh General Dental Practice Committee and he had spelt out the fundamental problem behind the access crisis across the UK, irrespective of payment system. Whether in Scotland with an item of service system, England with UDA’s, or Wales with it’s own variety of UDA systems, it remains one that the various governments and their advisers refuse to acknowledge.

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