Today, the British Dental Association has issued an open letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock following reports that a leading UK dental chain has instructed dentists to limit urgent care, in order to meet targets imposed by government on NHS dental providers on 1 January 2021.
These targets require practices to deliver 45% of their pre-pandemic levels of dental activity, meaning that practices may prioritise routine check-ups over more complex and longer treatments in order to meet these targets.
Responding to the news, Jacob Lant, Head of Policy and Research at Healthwatch England said:
“Since the outbreak of the pandemic, we’ve seen a massive increase in calls from people desperately seeking an NHS dentist for treatment. The impact of not being able to access care when needed led to many people experiencing significant pain and further complications impacting on their day to day life.
“Routine appointments are important to maintain good oral health, but prioritising these at the expense of treating those in need of more complex care to meet targets is simply wrong. Untreated dental problems can lead to infections and increase the risk of long-term harm like oral cancers.
“Access to NHS dental care has been a huge concern for patients for some time now and we will continue to raise the issue to the Government and NHS England.”
Read our report
Our review of 1,300 people’s experiences of accessing dental care found that:
- More than 7 in 10 people (73%) found it difficult to access help and support when they needed it.
- Access issues were caused by dentists not taking on NHS patients, as well as conflicting advice from different parts of the NHS about what help is available.
- Many people were offered treatment if they went private, despite research indicating that 40% of people would struggle to afford private dental care.
- The impact of not being able to access care led to many people to experience pain, discomfort and further complications.