Currently only 6% of the 7339 NHS dental practices in England and the Isle of Wight have enough funding and capacity to accept new NHS patients. This is partly due to the affects of COVID-19, but mostly due to the way NHS dentistry is funded.
Lets make a change. If we all work together we can improve local access to NHS dentistry.
The problem with access and NHS dentistry
The government is aware that the current NHS dental service does not meet demand, but NHS dentistry is limited by design so that the government can limit spending. It limits the number of contracts available for NHS dentists. It then limits the number of courses of treatment for which NHS dentists can receive funding.
This means NHS dentists are not able to respond to public demand by seeing more patients, hiring more dentists or opening new NHS dental practices where they are needed.
The current limits set on NHS dentistry result in a two tier system. Those who can afford to pay for private dentistry can access a dentist more easily. While people on low and middle incomes often struggle to access routine and emergency dental care. It would seem that equal and easy access to quality NHS dentistry is simply not a priority for the government.
Political party policies on NHS dentistry
Labour promise free NHS dental checkups to all but not free dental treatment.
The Green Party promise free access to NHS dentists and hygienists, as well as a reduction in the consumption of high sugar content foods and drinks.
Neither Labour nor the Greens have explained how a limited number of NHS dental contracts and funding could deliver more NHS dentistry.
Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats promise a workforce strategy to train and retain more NHS dentists, but provide no explanation on how increasing the number of dentists would overcome the limits to dental contracts and funding.
The Conservatives are seemingly content with the status quo, since they are keen to point out the lack of detail in Labour’s promises for NHS dentistry, but offer absolutely no suggestions of their own.
You have the power to change how NHS dentistry works
Your MP represents your views in parliament. If you have struggled to access an NHS dentist and you are unhappy about it, then write to your MP and tell them so they can make a change.
Writing to your MP is easier than than you think – just as easy as filling out a form. All you need to know is your postcode.
We have some suggestions for what you could say:
- Tell them about the problems you have experienced trying to access an NHS dentist
- Tell them you will be voting for a party that promises to improve access to good quality and affordable NHS dentistry
- Ask them to publish some detail about their party’s policy on NHS dentistry
- Ask them why dentists cannot open new dental practices or see more patients where you live
- Ask them why we don’t currently have all of our water supply fluoridated, when water fluoridation is a proven effective, cheap and safe way to reduce dental decay for everyone
- Ask them why if cigarette packets have to warn about cancer and gum disease, that sugary food and drink do not have to warn about tooth decay
- Ask them why its cheaper to buy unhealthy and sugary edible food-like substances than it is to buy nutritious fruit and vegetables
- Tell them what you want from NHS dentistry