NHS dental shortages laid bare as thousands treat just one patient a month | UK | News

A Freedom of Information request suggested that between March 2021 and March 2022, of the 24,272 dentists with NHS contracts in England, 15 percent or almost 4000 are carrying out just one course of NHS treatment a month on average.

The programme also saw that 28 percent of the Government’s £50 million investment in NHS dentistry in England was spent by the profession.

Funding from the scheme was intended to create 350,000 extra NHS appointments, but fewer than 63,000 were used.

It was also hoped the funding would help deliver extra out-of-hours care and try and clear the Covid backlog, with over 40 million NHS dental appointments lost since lockdown in England.

However, the BDA say the “endemic staffing problems” meant practices couldn’t utilise the investment, and a survey conducted by the BDA found that 71 percent of dentists would not recommend dentistry as a career.

The survey also found that of the 848 GDPs surveyed between June and August 2022, 44 percent want to increase the proportion of private work they do over the next five years.

It also found 71 percent would not recommend a career as a dentist, marking 10 percent more GDPs than in 2018.

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Dr Jeff Sherrer, who runs the Dental Design Studio in Hull where 90 percent of the patients are treated on the NHS, told the ITV programme he feels completely disillusioned.

He said: “Unfortunately, NHS dentistry is dying and it’s, it’s been dying for a long time.”

Dr Sherrer added he feels the current NHS contract brought in by the government in 2006 is financially unviable, and said: “We find that there are treatments that we deliver at a loss really because it costs more to use the materials than it does to actually what we receive from the NHS for providing the treatment…so it can be difficult but we still treat our patients nevertheless.”

In a statement to the programme, the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We are improving access to dental care for all NHS patients, backed by more than £3 billion in funding each year, and last year we made available an additional £50 million to help tackle the Covid backlogs.”

“There was also an increase of 539 dentists in the NHS in 2021-22, and we are working with the General Dental Council on legislative proposals to improve the recruitment of overseas dentists, which will further increase the number of appointments available.”

NHS England said: “Latest data shows dental services are recovering post pandemic, with over 26 million patient treatments delivered last year – up 120 percent from the year before, along with 1.7 million more children getting seen by an NHS dentist.”

“To further support the ongoing restoration of NHS dentistry, we recently announced the first significant changes to dentistry since 2006, helping practices to improve access for the patients that need dental care the most, with discussions around further changes that benefit both patients and staff continuing.”

‘Pulling Teeth: The End of NHS Dentistry?’ broadcasts on Thursday 8th September, ITV at 8.30pm


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