DEREK LEADS DEMANDS FOR A NEW DEAL FOR NHS DENTISTRY
DEREK PRESENTS HIS SURVEY OF WEST CORNWALL’S PROBLEMS TO PARLIAMENT
Derek Thomas led a debate in Parliament about the crisis in NHS Dentistry. He told MPs about the shortcomings of NHS dental provision – especially in Cornwall – and demanded a new contract for NHS dentists.
Derek presented the results of the dental survey he ran in his constituency, and said:
“The picture that came out of my survey was shocking. Nearly half of the respondents had been waiting more than three years for an appointment…
“Many constituents don’t show up on the waiting lists, because they have given up on waiting.
“One constituent comes from a family of seven, of whom only the youngest has ever seen a dentist – and only then because he went to hospital for urgent surgery. The oldest is 20.”
Derek set out the root cause of the crisis – the NHS dental contract. There has been cross-party consensus that it needs to be changed, agreement from the British Dental Association and a petition that gathered over 11,000 signatures, but the Government has been slow to move.
Derek’s speech demanded action on radical reform of the contract:
“I want to press this point.
“Tweaks to the existing system are not enough when the contract is fundamentally flawed.
“I would urge [the Health Minister] to commit to a firm date when we will see the end of [the current system] and a better contract, focused on prevention and increasing access.”
Derek will point out two problems with the contract. First its focus on remedial work:
“The current system does not focus on prevention. When Units of Dental Activity are the sole measure of contract performance, there is no incentive for preventative work….
“Our regional dental commissioning team has been running a pilot to take supervised tooth brushing out to the community, conducted by dental nurses. Given that more 5-9 year olds are admitted to hospital than for any other reason, this work should be at the heart of NHS dentistry, not something that is topped up by flexible commissioning.
And, second, the fact that it does not properly reward dentists for the work they do:
“A dental practice is faced, in effect, with a UDA cap for an entire course of treatment, which means when a patient has complex needs, the money involved does not even cover the overheads of the practice.
“The predictable result is that dental practices are moving away from NHS work.”
“One provider in Cornwall told me their surgeries were unused 52% of the time due to shortages of dentists and nurses. The vast majority said that it was the contract that was the biggest factor in their recruitment difficulties.”
Derek will be arguing for fundamental reform as soon as possible, which would not cost the NHS any more in the long term.
“I am grateful to everyone who filled in my survey, and gave me the facts and figures I needed. Together we showed that the problems with NHS dentistry go back much further than the pandemic.
“When I bring the survey to a close this week, I shall be passing everyone’s details on to NHS England and demanding action for the names on that list, and for everyone in Cornwall.”
- Derek has been campaigning on NHS dentistry for some years, both in private meetings with regional health commissioners and through public interventions in Parliament here, here or here
- In January, Derek’s questions led to the Health Minister admitting that the NHS dental contract was at the root of the problem
- Derek’s survey – available here – was designed to show the extent of the problem in his constituency, and was quickly adopted by other MPs in Cornwall like Scott Mann and Cherilyn Mackrory
- The petition demanding changes in the NHS dental contract is here