MPs have joined us in calling for dentistry’s roadmap to recovery. We need a timetable for lifting restrictions and delivering real reform.
MPs are backing our calls for a roadmap out of COVID restrictions and real reform of the NHS contract
When Coronavirus hit, we were in uncharted territory that required a safety-first approach. Now, over a year on, what practitioners really need is a roadmap to recovery.
From PPE to fallow time, you’ve told us that policies and procedures are not just limiting capacity in 2021, they are jeopardising the workforce and with it the future of services.
So we’ve worked tirelessly behind the scenes in recent weeks to get MPs up to speed on our issues which were discussed in the latest parliamentary debates.
You have given us the evidence. Here are the messages we’ve taken to Ministers and the media:
Dentists are looking to the exit
The one thing that unites almost every GDP, owners and associates, NHS and private, is the impact this pandemic has had on their morale. A large number have told us they are now reconsidering their future in this profession, which would be catastrophic for patients.
Many dentists have just had enough. Nearly half of you said that if things go on as they are you are likely to put down the drill and move on in the next 12 months if restrictions remain in place. Similar numbers say the same when it comes to reducing NHS commitment.
When it comes to the root causes, leading the field is the heavy toll of wearing high level PPE day in day out – with 9 out of 10 of you stating it is having a high impact on your morale.
With the vaccination programme making real headway the question now is when, not if, current restrictions will lift. We need a roadmap and joining us in our call are MPs on both sides of parliament.
Jumping through hoops on the NHS
Those working in the NHS have had to focus on targets, but at a terrible cost. Sacrificing their personal lives and compromising their mental health through increased opening hours and the elimination of annual leave.
"Where the workforce is concerned, real change can’t wait till after the horse has bolted."
None of these strategies are sustainable.
Most practices have bought in new ventilation systems without any government assistance. And now 70% of you say your practices simply lack the means to make further investment.
In response to your evidence Health Minister Jo Churchill MP has confirmed she has asked officials to look into capital funding, but said it is not 'simple'. Other UK nations have shown leadership here, so we can’t see why dentists in England are being left in the cold.
And for NHS dentists, at the heart of these targets is the UDA itself. Action on NHS contract reform has been pledged, but after a decade of piloting, there is no more time for stalling.
Government must pick up the pace, and contractual and legislative change need to be in place before 1 April 2022.
Where the workforce is concerned, real change can’t wait till after the horse has bolted.
Tackling the backlog
Clearly we can’t have NHS dentistry without NHS dentists. 30 million courses of treatment have been lost since March 2020, and this is the mountain we as a profession need help to climb.
Healthwatch England have pointed to NHS waiting times of up to three years. As we’ve said the overwhelming majority of dentists are doing the right thing, seeing patients as quickly as they can, and are getting the most urgent cases into their surgeries.
But we can’t do it alone. We can’t stand still, but neither can we afford to go back to life as it was before March 2020. COVID pushed a system already in crisis to breaking point, leaving millions of patients with no options, and dental practices beaten down by the stress.
Both dentists and patients need to know that by this time next year Ministers will have turned the page on a decade of failed contracts.
Chair General Dental Practice Committee