Matt Hancock urged to act over dental crisis ‘brewing in his own backyard’
PUBLISHED: 10:53 29 November 2018 | UPDATED: 11:02 29 November 2018
The health secretary is being urged to act on an “emerging crisis” in NHS dentistry with thousands of patients struggling to find practices across the region.
The British Dental Association (BDA) has warned that access problems have become an everyday reality in England, including parts of Matt Hancock’s West Suffolk constituency.
Communities such as Brandon and Haverhill have no dental practices able to take on new adult NHS patients and people are being forced to travel miles for appointments.
BDA analysis of NHS Choices data revealed that just over 10% of practices are able to take on new adult NHS patients across the whole West Suffolk constituency – with around one in four taking new child patients.
The BDA says the Government has yet to honour commitments to reform its NHS dental contract, which effectively limits the number of patients NHS dentists can treat.
Dental practices face penalties if they fail to meet targets but are not allowed to do more even if they have capacity to meet demand, according to the BDA.
Government funding per head for NHS dentistry has also fallen by £4.95 – from £40.95 to £36 – in the last five years
Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, the British Dental Association’s chairman of general dental practice, said: “This is a crisis is made in Westminster.
“Ministers have chosen to fund care for little over half the population, while dentists work to a contract that puts government targets ahead of patient care.
“The result is practices are struggling to fill vacancies, and residents are waiting longer or travelling further for an appointment.
“If Matt Hancock is serious about putting prevention at the heart of NHS strategy he needs to act on a crisis brewing in his own backyard, and ensure families who want NHS dentistry can access it.”
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We are committed to making sure the public can access top quality dental care in their local area.
“NHS England is working closely with their providers in the east of England to improve access to services in the short term, as well as actively exploring the longer-term options for dental services in the area.”