Putney MP Calls For Action Over Impending "Oral Health Crisis"

Fleur Anderson secures Commons' debate on help for UK dentists

Dentist and patient


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Putney MP Fleur Anderson has called on the Government to throw a lifeline to the UK dental sector, with fears “the biggest oral health crisis since the creation of the NHS”.


The Labour MP has secured a Backbench Business Debate on the issue in the House of Commons on Thursday.


She says dentists – particularly private dental surgeries - have been hit by a huge reduction in service provision, face challenges in protecting their staff and patients from contracting the virus and have received little government financial support.  


From this month onwards, NHS dental practices have been instructed by the Government to deliver 45% of their annual Unit of Dental Activity (UDA) target, pro-rata for the last quarter of the year, in order to receive 100% of their contract value for the period.


Ms Anderson says this is a target the British Dental Association (BDA) and many dental practitioners believe is unfair and unrealistic, and will result in damaging financial penalties.


Speaking ahead of Thursday’s debate, Ms Anderson said: “We are sleep-walking into the biggest oral health crisis since the creation of the NHS. Unless the Government begins to recognise that dentistry is an essential health service, the whole sector will collapse.


"Dental care is not a middle-class luxury, it is a fundamental aspect of good health and key indicator of health equality and we neglect it at our peril.


"In Thursday’s debate, I will be calling for the very unfair 45% target and financial penalties to be scrapped, urgent support to practices to enable them to increase the number of patients they can see safely, continued recognition of dental staff as key workers and vaccine prioritisation, seamless supplies of PPE and an urgent expansion of the financial support available.


"During last year’s lockdown a constituent told me that they had to pull out their own tooth, and a local dentist told me about an elderly lady who couldn’t eat solid food during the lockdown because of her painful teeth issues. The waiting list for children’s urgent care has gone up to two years. The Government needs to get a grip of the situation."


According to the British Dental Association (BDA), over 20 million dental appointments were lost between March and November – that’s more than half the total volume of treatment delivered in a typical year.


In Wandsworth, nearly 6,000 fewer courses of treatment took place in the final quarter of 2020, compared with the final quarter of 2019.


They believe this has created a backlog that will take years to clear and prompted concerns of a looming nationwide oral health crisis.


The BDA says dental surgeries have also faced persistent challenges on safety and preventing virus transmission. With social distancing and decontamination between patients essential, dentists are only able to see a fraction of their usual patients, and PPE shortages were a decisive factor in the suspension of face-to-face care in the first place.


It also says many as 53% of dental practices estimate they can only maintain their financial sustainability for 12 months or less in the face of lower patient numbers and higher overheads. Beyond access to the furlough scheme and Government credit, very few surgeries have been eligible for business support grants or business rates relief.


The debate is scheduled to take place around 2.30pm on Thursday in the House of Commons chamber. If you are a dentist or a dental patient and would like to share your thoughts, you can email Ms Anderson’s office at fleur.anderson.mp@parliament.uk

January 13, 2021

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