Are 500 NHS Dentists really only doing one UDA a year?

Are 500 NHS Dentists really only doing one UDA a year?

One of the more surprising and shocking revelations to emerge at the first hearing of oral evidence by the Health & Social Care Committee inquiry into NHS dentistry was that nobody seems to know how much time NHS dentists work for the NHS.

The GDC’s Chief Executive Ian Brack told the committee he knew how many dentists were on the Register, but not how much they worked. The number of dentists is crucial to the delivery of the service, but so is the number of days they work and the volume of work they complete.  All things being equal, one dentist working five days is likely to do more than two dentists each working two.  many dentists only work part-time.

Last week (19th April) at Prime Minister’s Questions, Rishi Sunak repeated his boast that there are "around 500 more dentists delivering care in the NHS last year than in the previous year".

Sunak’s 500 figure has particular salience because analysis of UDA delivery for every NHS performer undertaken by the BDA shows that ’over 500 dentists are now delivering a single UDA a year - the equivalent of a solitary NHS check-up’.

Quite how and why dentists are able to deliver one or a handful of UDAs and maintain a place on the service’s approved ’Performer’ list will mystify some.  One dentist contacted by GDPUK confessed that her performer number was required for her NHS pension and that it only takes ’one UDA’ to maintain an active performer number’. 

Another told us it ’keeps the door open for an easy return to the NHS’ should he wish to make one.

Whatever the clinician’s motives, the BDA’s research effectively torpedoes the government’s hubristic claims.  The BDA goes on to say ’Fewer performed higher volumes of NHS dentistry last year than before COVID struck, with the proportion doing over 5000 UDAs falling by more than half’.

And BDA polling suggests that over half - 50.3% - of dentists have reduced their NHS commitment by an average of 27%.

Eddie Crouch summed it up "The Prime Minister keeps boasting of 500 ’new’ dentists in the NHS, but in fact we have 500 doing just a single check-up a year."

The BDA’s analysis claims that unmet need for dentistry in 2022 ’stood at over 11 million people, or almost one in four of England’s adult population’.


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