Vice Chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee, Rachael Maskell MP, challenged the new Health and Social Care Secretary, Victoria Atkins MP on the failure to deliver good oral healthcare to people across the country. This week, at her first meeting with the Health Select Committee, Ms. Atkins was held to account for having no NHS Dental Recovery Plan, despite it being promised before the summer.
With 12m people unable to secure an NHS Dental appointment last year, and 169 children having teeth extracted each day, the biggest reason why children attend hospital, around 10% of people are turning to self-dental care, including removing their own teeth.
The MP highlighted that dentistry was more than about our teeth as dentists diagnose oral cancers, abscess infections can lead to sepsis and as bacteria enters your mouth, can lead to blood-born diseased. Much is being understood about the centrality of oral health to wider healthcare, and yet it is so divorced from the NHS, and for many inaccessible.
Rachael Maskell MP, also challenged the Health Secretary on workforce shortages, with funding NHS Dentistry in England being significantly lower than that across the other three nations of the UK, and the lowest in Europe. The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan does not address the shortages for another three years, until 2026.
Finally, Ms Maskell highlighted the failure to reform the contract between dentists and the Government. The contract, which is 17 years old, has failed to ensure dental care is fully funded, and has been a major reason why dentists have turned their practices over to the private sector. The MP therefore made the case that contract reform was essential, and highlighted her committee’s recommendation that it should be a capitation process whereby dentists are funded on the number of patients rather than on grouping different treatment types. While technical, this is central to NHS dentistry.
A direct quote from Ms Maskell in the Health Select Committee meeting:“The Prime Minister didn’t get his figures right at Prime Minister’s questions this week because funding needs an additional 1.5 billion to get just to 2010 levels.
“With England now having the lowest level of funding of all the UK countries significantly so, and of course lower than anywhere else in Europe. And our [Health Select Committee] report certainly did call for radical contractual change as well, moving from a system of updating to a capitation approach to ensure that everyone can access NHS dentistry because we know it’s a major driver of inequality.”