1 April 2016

Leading oral health charity, the British Dental Health Foundation, have given their support to the British Dental Association (BDA) following the publication today of research highlighting how NHS dentistry is failing patients who are most in need. 

The BDA describe it as a ‘lost decade of chaos' in dentistry and point to statistics that show 93 per cent of dentists believe government targets stand in the way of treating patients who are in most need.

The charity is calling on the government to put prevention at the heart of the long overdue new NHS contract for dentists, this will ensure patients who are most in need do not continue to suffer as a result of restrictive targets placed upon dentists.

Speaking on the BDA's statement Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, said: "This new research is the culmination of something that we predicted when the current contract was introduced a decade ago.

At the time it was obvious there was a distinct lack of focus on preventive dentistry, this has unsurprisingly led us to this exact point we find ourselves in today.

"We cannot afford to keep putting patients at risk due to a system which prioritises output over outcome and major changes have to been made, and they have to happen soon.

"The current system is seriously limiting a dentist's ability to give patients the best possible care they can and those who are in most at need, often those with complex needs, are the ones who are suffering the most.

"It has also become almost impossible for dentists to expand existing practices or set up new ones with new commissioning of services being severely limited.

"With a rising population we are starting again to see evidence in certain areas of people having difficulty in accessing an NHS dentist.

"What is truly worrying is that more than nine in ten dentists across Britain have recognised the same exact problem and this means that the issues are glaringly obvious and incredibly widespread."

Following the Health Select Committee's damning report into the new Dental Contract the review, led by Professor Jimmy Steele, proposed radical changes to the way NHS dentistry is delivered.

The government proposed major changes to the contract with a new focus on prevention and improving the oral health of patients. This approach was piloted for some three years.

A new prototype contract is now being tested with full implementation only being promised to roll out gradually from 2018, some 6 years after the pilots started.

As part of the prototype, the widely criticised output measures are now being partially maintained which, when associated with targets for achievement, are likely to skew the treatment provided.

Dr Carter added: "The government has taken far too long in implementing a new NHS contract and every day they delay means that more and more people are at the risk of being left behind.

"When they do finally unveil their contract the current system must be completely overhauled; by focussing on prevention it will allow dentists enough opportunity to give patients who are most in need the service they so desperately need, while also improving the state of the nation's oral health."