28 July 2023
The Health and Social Care Committee has today published its Report on its inquiry in to NHS Dentistry. The Government has 2 months to respond.
The Report states that, “NHS dentistry is facing a crisis of access, resulting in a decline in oral health. The Government needs to undertake urgent and fundamental reform if people are to receive the dental and oral healthcare they need. It is frustrating to have to return to recommendations made by our predecessor Committee fifteen years ago that still haven’t been implemented”. It reports that, as a matter of urgency, the Government must set out how it intends to reform NHS dentistry and that, “During the course of the inquiry, the Minister announced a forthcoming recovery plan for NHS dental services. The plan has yet to be published. We hope the plan has the scope to meet the Government’s ambition and is accompanied by the necessary funding and swift implementation”.
One of the Committee’s key recommendations is that everyone who needs an NHS dentist is able to access one within a reasonable timeframe and a reasonable distance. In total 26 conclusions and recommendations are listed, with some of the main ones including:
- Ensuring that the public are better informed about what NHS dental care they are entitled to.
- Fundamental reform of the dental contract is essential and must be urgently implemented, not only to address the crisis of access in the short-term, but to ensure a more sustainable, equitable and prevention-focussed system for the future.
- Patient registration under a reformed capitation-based contract will better enable those patients who currently can’t access a dentist to be able to do so.
- Giving dentists financial incentives for seeing new patients and those with greater dental needs.
- Prioritising prevention and patient-centred care.
- Finding out how many full-time and part-time-equivalent dentists, dental nurses, therapists and hygienists work in the NHS and how much NHS and private work they carry out.
- The dental profession should be represented on Integrated Care Boards to ensure they have the necessary expertise to inform decision-making around contracting and flexible commissioning.
- In light of the current national contracting arrangements, NHS England must provide clarity to ICBs about what flexibilities they have with regard to commissioning NHS dental services and targeting resources according to the needs of their populations.
- By the end of July 2024, every ICB should have undertaken an oral health needs assessment, in consultation with service users, patient organisations and the profession.