Ask any MP or local Healthwatch what health issue sits at the top of their inbox, and there is a good chance it will be the public’s access to NHS dentists. The launch of a Health and Social Care Committee inquiry into dentistry is therefore welcome news.
The inquiry is well timed, coming after a recent BBC investigation showing that 90% of practices across England were not accepting new adult NHS patients.
The severe access problems stem from several factors. Longstanding issues relating to the dental contract not offering high enough rates for dentists to provide NHS care, for example, have contributed to a decline in the availability of NHS dentistry. This has led to thousands of people across the country going private or, very concerningly, turning to self-care.
Accident and emergency departments are over-flowing with people in severe dental distress, with tooth decay being the most common reason for hospital admission among children aged five to nine in recent years.
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Source: HSJ, 19 January 2023
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