Shake-Up ‘Hitting Patients And Dentists’
The most radical shake-up of NHS dentistry in 50 years is failing patients, dentists claimed today. A year after the new contract was introduced, the British Dental Association said that patient access to NHS services had not increased.
And its survey of practices in England and Wales also found that most dentists believe it has not removed the treadmill of the old system or encouraged a more preventive approach to dental care.
And a study for dental plan provider HSA found that just over half the public it asked believe it is only a matter of time before NHS dentistry disappears altogether. The BDA will today call for immediate action to tackle the most significant problems with the new contract.
Susie Sanderson, chair of the BDA’s executive board, will today tell the special conference in London, “When the Government is failing to meet even its own success criteria for the new contract, then it’s time for urgent action. We now have a reductive, target-driven system that is failing both patients and dentists. The future of NHS dentistry is becoming increasingly fragile and we need action now before it shatters altogether.”
In Wales 98% of dentists signed the new contract, which heralded in a new payment system for patients and was supposed to allow dentists to spend more time with patients, instead of operating a revolving-door practice.
It was also supposed to bolster the precarious position of NHS dentistry in the UK – Wales had frequently witnessed patients queuing in the streets for hours on end to register with a new NHS dentist. But the Welsh Assembly Government acknowledged that about 74,000 former patients had lost access to NHS dentistry since the reforms were implemented, according to the BDA’s manifesto for Wales.
It is also understood that a handful of practices in Wales have said they can only take on emergency patients because they reached their contracted capacity early.
Stuart Geddes, director of the BDA in Wales, said, “The contract has only fulfilled one aspect of the Government’s aims in Wales – it did, for a while, remove the access issues. But it is not doing it at the moment because some dentists don’t have the funding to treat patients and others are so intent on treating patients they don’t have the spaces. We also don’t know how much of the money allocated to dentistry has been spent on it in Wales this year. And a lot of dentists are still very stressed about the way they are working.”
The BDA’s research, released today to coincide with the conference marking the first anniversary of the contract, found that 85% of dentists in England and Wales believe that the new contract has not improved access to NHS dentistry for patients. A further 97% think the new contract has not removed the treadmill effect and 93% feel the new system does not encourage a more preventive approach to care.
A Welsh Assembly Government spokesman said, “The introduction of the new contract has been very successful in Wales. The significant investment of £30m additional funding for the contract has made a very noticeable difference in access across Wales and problems are now confined to very few areas, including Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Anglesey.”