Pressure mounts on failed NHS contract: amendments tabled to Health Bill

09 November 2021
2 min read

MPs are continuing to join our call to break from the discredited NHS contract, with amendments now tabled to the landmark Health and Care Bill currently before parliament. 
Building on the momentum of the British Dental Association’s (BDA) joint letter with Healthwatch England and the cross-party letter from over 40 MPs to the treasury about the crisis in the system, the Labour frontbench has tabled a proposed new clause to the Bill calling for measures to ensure universal access to NHS dentistry.
Introducing this amendment, Labour’s shadow health minister Alex Norris MP attacked the government’s record on NHS dentistry. Quoting BDA research, he highlighted the savage cuts to dental budgets and called for a proportion of the recently pledged funding for NHS recovery to be earmarked for dentistry. He stressed the crisis in morale amongst the dental workforce, and urged the minister to get on with the critical work of contract reform.
“There is consensus that UDAs are long out of date and that after 15 years it’s time to move away from them. We really need to get on with this, because there are lots of dentists waiting on that before making a judgement as to whether NHS dentistry is in their future or not,” he argued, adding, “it is not a hyperbole when the BDA talk about ‘last chance saloon’, it is not a hyperbole to say that we will not have NHS dentistry in the medium term if we don’t have a course check”.
The SNP health spokesperson Dr Philippa Whitford echoed his points on the chronic underfunding of dentistry in England, calling for capital investment in ventilation for dental practices and oral health prevention schemes. She lamented the return of the UDA system post-pandemic, calling it “an enormous missed opportunity to improve NHS dental access for everyone”.
In his response, the health minister, Edward Argar, reiterated the government’s commitment to contract reform, saying “transformation in NHS dentistry is essential” and stressed they wanted “to see a contract that is attractive for professionals”, but offered no specifics on when changes might be implemented.
Eddie Crouch, BDA chair, said, "Both dentists and patients will thank MPs for not letting up after the missed opportunities in last week's budget.

"It's time for answers on what meaningful support is going to be offered to ensure this service can have a future. Ministers are offering boilerplate responses when we need a plan and ambition to rebuild services millions depend on."

As the Bill continues its passage through parliament the BDA is speaking to and providing targeted briefings to the government, MPs and peers and fighting for the interests of dentists and patients, as well as trying to strengthen the public health measures included in the Bill.