13 years of Tory mismanagement of the health service has seeing dentists quitting in droves. 2,000 dentists quit the NHS in 2021, that’s around 10% of all dentists employed in England.
An estimated 4 million people can’t access NHS care and with some parts of the country now described as ‘dentistry deserts’, because remaining NHS dentists aren’t taking on new patients.
In real terms, net Government spend on general dental practices in England has been cut by over a third over the past decade, with the number of NHS dental practices in England falling by more than 1,200 in the five years prior to the pandemic.
I know from my postbag that the situation in Bristol is no different from the rest of England. It’s simply unacceptable that children are unable to be treated for dental issues which only just get worse without being seen by a medical professional.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We have seen what happens when a government focusses on driving up dental care in the UK.
The last Labour government reduced waiting times from 18 months to 18 weeks. The next Labour government will secure the future of NHS dentistry by providing the staff, equipment and modern technology needed to ensure patients get the treatment they need.
When you dig into the data you see the truly woeful state of NHS dentistry in England. We spend less on dentistry per head of population in the areas with the highest levels of deprivation, and statistics from the British Dental Association suggest that 1 million new or expectant mothers have lost access to dental care since the start of the pandemic.
Moreover, tooth extraction in hospitals due tooth decay remains the most common reason for hospital admissions in the 6–10-year-old age group, with an estimated cost of hospital admissions for children aged 0 to 19-years for this intervention being £33 million per year.
We also know that with 91% of dental practices not able to accept new adult patients in England, and 80% not able to accept new child patients, millions are facing the unpalatable options of waiting for months in agony, resorting to DIY dentistry or coughing up private dental fees they simply can’t afford.
Not enough has been done to recruit and retain both dentists and dental care professionals and a recent BDA member survey showed more than 9 in 10 owners of dental practices with a high NHS commitment found it difficult to recruit a dentist, with 43% of vacancies unfilled for more than 6 months.
From inadequate support for prevention of oral ill health in childhood to dentistry deserts, net Government spend on general dental practices in England has been cut by over a third over the past decade.
The Tory Government’s approach to dentistry is rotten. It’s time for us to extract them from government to allow a Labour Government to serve the country and get us back on track to a healthier future.