NHS releases worrying dental statistics for England

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NHS releases worrying dental statistics for England

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A recent report published by NHS England showed a staggering drop in the number of patients accessing NHS dental services in recent years. (Image: LunaKate/Shutterstock)

LONDON, UK: Late in August, the National Health Service (NHS) released the annual dental statistics for England. The report provides information on NHS dental activity in the country for the 12-month period ending March 2022 and includes data on the number of patients seen by NHS dentists up to the end of June 2022.

To limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2 transmission, dental practices in England were instructed to close from 25 March 2020 and provide emergency care only until the government announced the slow reopening of the businesses from 8 June 2020.

According to the report, only 16.4 million adults (34%) accessed NHS dental care in the 24 months prior to 31 March 2022. Similarly, the number of children seen by an NHS dentist dropped to 5.6 million (44.8%). According to the British Dental Association (BDA), the figures were at 48.6% and 58.7% respectively in the last full year before the pandemic.

Additionally, the data showed that as few as 26.4 million courses of NHS dental treatment were delivered between 2021 and 2022, compared with an average number of 39.4 million courses delivered annually in the five years before the pandemic. Unfortunately, although dental professionals have been required to deliver 100% of their pre-pandemic activity from April this year, the BDA noted that the imposed targets have not resulted in an increase in the volume of NHS dentistry delivered.

Mounting crisis and looming death of NHS

Since the beginning of the lockdown, the NHS has experienced enormous patient backlogs owing to limited access to dental services. Highlighting the true extent of the NHS dentistry crisis, recent research conducted by the BBC reported that nine in ten NHS practices have said that they are unable to accept new adult patients.

In response to the recent dental statistics for England, the BDA noted that there is an urgent need for radical change in order to reform dental services in the country.

“What we’re seeing isn’t a recovery but a service on its last legs,” said Dr Eddie Crouch, chair of the BDA Principal Executive Committee, in a press release.

“NHS dentistry is light years away from where it needs to be. Unless ministers step up and deliver much needed reform and decent funding, this will remain the new normal,” he concluded.

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