It was incredibly disappointing to hear that the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) has confirmed in their official response to the Welsh Assembly Health Committee’s Dentistry Inquiry that there will be no new funding for NHS dentistry, and is also quite surprising, in the face of the recommendations made by said Health Committee earlier this year, backed up with by our evidence.
It seems that Welsh Government feels the problems identified by both the Welsh Assembly, dental professionals, and patients can be solved without any new investment into dental services. They have accepted all the recommendations made by the Committee but have said they feel the financial implication will be ‘none’ and funds should come from existing budgets.
However, official figures have shown a 15% reduction in expenditure on all dentistry in real terms in the last six years, despite an ever-growing population. Turning away patients is not something dentists and their teams want to do, but unfortunately, it is happening too often - as BDA data from April 2019 showed that only around 1 in 6 practices were able to take on a new adult NHS patient. Should this have been the opportunity to invest to make such numbers a thing of the past?
The Health Minister, in response to questions from Assembly Members, has suggested children unable to be treated by a high-street dentist, can instead go to a community dental clinic. Community colleagues will know this is a deeply flawed strategy – as we know, all of the CDS already face significant waiting lists, and this is another area that requires new investment.
Trying to solve one problem but pushing it onto another part of an already stretched service is really not the answer.
We know that the only answer is proper investment in dentistry, to ensure our patients can access the services they need.
We had hoped that the plan set out by the Health Committee could have made a real difference to NHS dentistry in Wales. It’s a shame that Ministers are not willing to back this plan up with new investment, as it could have made such a positive impact.
Tom Bysouth, Chair
Welsh General Dental Practice Committee
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