NHS dentistry: ministers seek action on reforms

24 September 2022

Over 60 cross-party MPs call on the prime minister to act with ‘urgency and ambition’ on access crisis.

Over 60 cross-party MPs call on the prime minister to act with ‘urgency and ambition’ on access crisis.

The British Dental Association (BDA) has warned government needs to show real ambition to bring NHS dentistry back from the brink, given the absence of any new commitments in Thérèse Coffey’s ‘Plan for Patients’.  

While the new Health Secretary, Thérèse Coffey, restated her ‘ABCD' priorities - ambulances, backlogs, care, doctors and dentists – she offered no new proposals to halt the exodus of dentists from the NHS or expand access to care to patients.  

News comes as over 60 MPs from across have called on the PM to make good on her campaign pledges on NHS dentistry. During the recent leadership election Liz Truss stated that action on the access crisis would form a 'top three' target in her first 90 days. 

The discredited NHS contract dentists in England work to is fuelling the access crisis. It puts government targets ahead of patient care, and caps spending to cover barely half the population. Coffey’s speech, the BDA say, offered nothing new, simply revisiting minor 'tweaks' to the contract announced before summer recess, which do nothing to improve access, or halt the exodus of dentists from the NHS, and had no additional funding attached.   

The BDA is pressing for a decisive break from this failed contract, underpinned by sustainable investment.  It would take an extra £880m a year simply to restore resources to 2010 levels. It warns that government objectives to improve access and boost retention simply cannot be achieved within the financial constraints set by the Treasury.  

Recent BBC research has revealed nine in 10 practices are unable to take on new adult NHS patients. In Liz Truss's constituency base of Norfolk that stands at 100 per cent, and the same applies in Suffolk, home to Therese Coffey, the new Deputy PM and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. In Surrey, home to new Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, the figure stands at 93 per cent.  

Eddie Crouch, BDA chair said, “Today we saw little evidence government is ready to honour its pledges on NHS dentistry.

“This isn’t a partisan issue. Underfunding and failed contracts can be fixed, but we need real leadership across Whitehall. 

“Millions of patients need these promises to be kept."