NHS dentistry ‘reprieved’ as government support is extended 

08 February, 2023 / infocus
 Will Peakin  

The British Dental Association says that NHS dentistry has “escaped imminent collapse”, following the Scottish Government’s decision to extend support until 31 October.

A ‘bridging payment’ – originally due to lapse on 1 April – had uprated NHS fees by 1.1. With spiralling costs and lower patient numbers, the professional body had warned ministers 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. 

BDA Scotland stressed 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 loss, it said.

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

The news – in a letter from Humza Yousaf, the Health Secretary – comes as the Scottish Liberal Democrats prepare to use a parliamentary debate today to “declare a crisis in NHS dentistry”.

David McColl, Chair of the British Dental Association’s Scottish Dental Practice Committee said: “This is needed progress. We told the Scottish Government that pulling the plug on these payments would be a body blow to this service. What’s needed now is real reform to a broken system. There can be no more kicking the can down the road – a sustainable model must be in place come October.”

In his letter, Mr Yousaf said the extension would allow time to engage with the profession “in relation to the vital issue of the implementation of the revised Determination I, such as education and to ensure the necessary IT solutions are in place by 31 October.”

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