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NHS dentistry in the spotlight: AMs debate a failed contract

Blog Author Caroline Seddon

Blog Date 03/10/2019


We're pleased to see the Welsh Assembly tackling the crisis facing NHS dentistry.

Assembly Members (AMs) from across party lines called on the Welsh Government to let go of the discredited contract at a recent plenary session. 

It's the 10 hour queues. The 100 mile roundtrips. The 12 constituencies without a single practice taking new  NHS adult patients.

The Assembly heard about the reality in Wales, based on our research, government's own data, and the lived experience of patients across the country.

In May, the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee, backed transformative change to NHS dentistry in Wales. Thanks to our evidence, they concluded it was time to consign the 2006 contract to the dustbin of history. 

"Paying someone the same amount to deliver a course of treatment on a patient regardless of the amount of work involved makes little sense" said Committee Chair Dai Lloyd. 

We couldn't agree more. AMs documented the perversity of a system that fails to support high needs patients, and that leaves those who can't secure access to bottle up problems that only adds to costs facing our NHS. 

It's a failed contract, that's gone hand in hand with under-investment. 

As AM Angela Burns noted, the dental budget hasn't even tried to keep pace with inflation, and the Welsh Government – while in theory signing up to the Committee's recommendations – hasn't actually offered a penny of new investment.

"The real problem is there's no new money" she said. "The value of the total dental budget in 2017-18 is worth 15 per cent less in real terms compared to the budget six years ago, but I can assure you that in the six years capital costs have increased, staff costs have increased, everything else has increased."

Health Minister Vaughan Gething was clear the Welsh Government still remains unwilling to let go of the target driven system.

More pilots are pledged, but the fundamentals of the UDA system are to remain in place, despite some pilot practices from an earlier scheme still operating a UDA-free contract very successfully, as Angela Burns observed. 

We agree with AMs. It is time for a definitive break from the past.

As Dai Lloyd concluded "The Minister has started on a journey, but the Government needs to take far more action and take that action quickly." 

"Doing nothing is simply not an option."

Caroline Seddon, BDA Wales National Director



BDA Wales - working for you

BDA Wales campaigns for the interests of all dentists working in Wales. With our elected committee members, we negotiate on behalf of the profession on terms and conditions, pay and contracts: join us.