NHS dentistry budget translates into cuts, says association

26 January 2024

The Department of Health and Social Care report and annual accounts for 2022/23 show that £2.899bn was spent on NHS dentistry. The BDA says this has translated into cuts, with the budget falling by over a third in real terms since 2010 – a real cut of £1bn.

The professional body says this is a result of a decade of ‘underspends’ in the dental budget. It added that the spending is not because of any lack of demand for NHS dentistry but simply reflects that practices are struggling and unable to hit their targets.

No attempt has been made to keep pace with inflation and population growth, said the BDA. OECD data prior to covid demonstrated that of all European nations, the UK spent the smallest share of its health budget on dentistry.

The BDA understands the service is on track for similar levels of underspends in this financial year.

Eddie Crouch, British Dental Association chair, said, “Ministers need to explain why – when desperate patients are pulling out their own teeth – they’ve let funding for NHS dentistry fall off a cliff.

“Promised ring fences have been torn down around a budget that’d already been cut to the bone.

“The PM promised to ‘restore’ NHS dentistry. Instead, he’s taking it back in time.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said, “Access to dentistry is improving, and last year, 1.7m more adults and some 800,000 more children saw an NHS dentist. We have also announced plans to increase dental training places by 40 per cent.

“We want every adult and child who needs an NHS dentist to get one regardless of where in England they live. We have already taken steps to improve access, but we know there is more to do, which is why the government and NHS England are working on a dentistry plan to make further improvements.”