Without reform ‘NHS dentistry will go from crisis to collapse’

08 February, 2023 / infocus
 Will Peakin  

Following today’s debate in the Scottish Parliament, the British Dental Association (BDA) has urged the Scottish Government to deliver meaningful reform to NHS dentistry by the autumn – saying that failure to do so will take the service “from crisis to collapse”.

Yesterday, Ministers announced a that ‘bridging payment’ which uprated NHS fees by 1.1, but was due to lapse on 1 April, would continue to October 2023.

“With spiralling costs BDA Scotland has continued to stress that the traditional high volume/low margin model NHS dentistry works to was now unsustainable and removing the payment would push practices to bankruptcy or into the private sector,” it said in a statement. 

Despite needed progress on this extension, BDA Scotland warned that a “new sustainable model” must be in place by 31 October, otherwise the extension will “only delay the inevitable”. Practices are already facing the risk of providing care that involves laboratory work – like dentures – at a loss, it said.

NHS dentistry in Scotland has not returned to anything resembling business as usual, said BDA Scotland. Recent data has indicated claims submitted by NHS dentists for dental work are 43 per cent down on 2019 levels and suggest a growing exodus from the NHS workforce.

David McColl, Chair of the BDA’s Scottish Dental Practice Committee, said: “There was little need for a debate on whether NHS dentistry in Scotland is in crisis. On access, on workforce, on inequalities, wherever data exists it points to a service on the brink.

“The Scottish Government made the right call by not prematurely pulling the plug on vital support.

“The question is now whether, come October, we’ll have the reforms needed to give this service a future. Failure to do so will take us from crisis to collapse.” 

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