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Lockdown: Abandon targets or leave future of dental services at risk

04 January 2021

 

The British Dental Association has urged the government to abandon imposed NHS targets that will be impossible to achieve under the new national lockdown, and which risk putting hundreds of practices out of business.

 

The union had refused to sign up to plans that took effect on New Year’s Day which will see practices face steep financial penalties if they fail to hit 45% of their pre-pandemic NHS activity targets from 1 January to 1 April 2021. In an open letter it has called on Health Secretary Matt Hancock to drop the activity measures with immediate effect.

 

The BDA believes that the latest government restrictions have a major impact on patients’ willingness to seek care, whilst the NHS targets will force dentists to prioritise routine check-ups for the ‘worried-well’ over a time-consuming urgent backlog.

 

Two fifths (41%) of practices currently operating below 36% of their targets face a ‘cliff edge’ and the potentially ruinous return of the majority of their NHS funding for the period 1 January to 1 April 2021.

 

NHS practices have been struggling to see more than a fraction of their pre-pandemic patient numbers owing to tight social distancing and decontamination restrictions, with over 19 million appointments delayed since lockdown. The Welsh Government has set no targets and set aside dedicated funding for ventilation equipment that can help practices rebuild capacity. Scottish and Northern Irish authorities have set targets at less than half the planned level for England.

 

MPs are set to debate the imposition of these targets at a Backbench Business debate on 14 January.

 

Dave Cottam, Chair of the British Dental Association’s General Dental Practice Committee said:

 

“As the nation returns to lockdown, the targets imposed by Government on NHS dentistry are now impossible to justify.

 

“Dentistry remains open and safe, but patients will understandably now have real concerns about attending.

 

“This policy was already set to push NHS practices to the brink. Without urgent change, dental services across this country face decimation, risking patient care for years to come.”