Dental care in the UK is awful because governments made it that way

Last Updated: June 3, 2023By Tags: , , , , , , ,

It’s amazing how some writers spin out an article when all we really need is a quick run-down of the facts.

We all know dentistry in the UK is in crisis. Many of us can’t get in to a dentist for a check-up and the reason is simple: there aren’t enough dentists in the UK.

Why aren’t there enough? Two reasons, according to Novara Media‘s article:

The real reason for this understaffing… was austerity: the government has slashed funding for NHS dental services by 8% in real terms since 2010. In 2013, David Cameron placed a hard cap on the number of trainee dental places his government would fund (the cap was lifted briefly in 2020-21, but was reimposed in 2022 and remains in place despite the current crisis).

Perhaps the most significant government contribution to the current crisis in British dentistry dates back to 2006, when Tony Blair introduced a new contract between the NHS and its dentists. Prior to that point, dentists were paid for each piece of work they did. As a result of the 2006 reform, dentists are now paid for a certain number of “units of dental activity”, with little distinction made between complex operations and simple treatments. If they don’t complete nearly all of this work (96%), dentists have to pay back some of their fee. But this is complicated by the fact that the total amount of work they can do is itself capped, meaning that if they do too much work, they have to turn patients away. The result is that many NHS dentists find themselves unable to make a decent living due to the low pay involved in dentistry (45% reported a decline in NHS pay since 2020), not to mention chronically overworked: 87% have felt symptoms of stress and anxiety in the past year.

So politicians created this crisis with a stupid contract and with funding cuts.

The answer is clear: change the contract to re-incentivise dentists, and restore funding levels.

Any government failing to do that is creating its own toothache (sorry).

Source: How Did British Dental Care Get So Awful? | Novara Media

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