Calls for ‘urgent’ review amid NHS dental care ‘scandal’ in York

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‘URGENT and sweeping’ reform is needed as NHS dentistry in York has reached ‘a new low’, advisers have heard.

The number of people with access to a dentist in the city has dropped by nearly 30% over the past three years, according to a Healthwatch York survey. More than 40% of people said they had no access to a dentist in 2021.

None of the 39 practices contacted in York last year were taking on new adult NHS patients.

Public health nurse consultant Anita Dobson said the pandemic had “amplified” pre-Covid issues.

Dentists, health experts and advisers were unanimous in saying that NHS dentistry needed reform at a meeting of the council’s health review committee.

The most recent data shows that while the prevalence and severity of tooth decay in five-year-olds in York is lower than the national average, the worst-affected children have nearly four decayed, extracted or filled teeth by the time they reach five years. years of age.

NHS dentists work under the Dental Activity Units (UDA) system. Critics have claimed that the UDA system does not encourage preventative work and is one of the main reasons dentists leave health services.

North Yorkshire dentist Jeremy Boyle said: ‘If a patient needs four fillings, an extraction, a root canal and a prosthetic addition, you are paid exactly the same amount as if you had just done a filling on this patient – ​​there is absolutely no inventive step. caring for a high-needs patient – ​​it’s not financially viable.

The current NHS dental budget – £3.2billion – could only cover around 51 per cent of the UK population, Mr Boyle added.

York dentist Naz Hussein said: “Without any additional funding, our hands are completely tied.”

A parliamentary question in January 2022 revealed that the number of dentists working in the Vale of York area had fallen from 239 in March 2019 to 209 in March 2021.

Cllr Paul Doughty, chairman of the committee, said: ‘We know the government is considering much needed reform and I add my voice for an urgent contract review.

Councilor Christian Vassie told the committee about the experiences of people in his neighborhood of Wheldrake, several of whom said they could expect to wait five years on an NHS waiting list.

He said: ‘Young, old and everyone else is being told that if you don’t have the money for private treatment, you can forget about access to dental care. It is a scandal. The government must act. »

A particular problem for York is that it has no out-of-hours emergency service, with the nearest supply being in Harrogate and Hull.

Debbie Pattinson, NHS England dental commissioning manager for Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “We know this is not acceptable and we will try to renew a new service – this is a priority for us. ”

Healthwatch York director Sian Balsom said: ‘NHS dentistry in the city has hit a new low and is in need of urgent and radical reform. If we don’t act quickly, we will put additional pressure on an already overstretched healthcare system. »

NHS England said this week it would offer 350,000 dental appointments in February and March as part of plans to tackle the backlog exacerbated by the pandemic.

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