UK’s largest dental faculty tackles dental care crisis

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UK’s largest dental faculty releases manifesto aimed at combating the deepening oral care crisis

The UK's largest dental faculty has proposed a range of governmental measures to curb a deepening dental crisis. (Image: Marcin Balcerzak/Shutterstock)

Fri. 24 May 2024


EDINBURGH, Scotland: As access to publicly funded dental healthcare continues to deteriorate for many people across the UK, the Faculty of Dental Surgery of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh on 20 May released a critical declaration setting out a range of measures it recommends to curb the crisis. The current situation is the result of a tightening of National Health Service (NHS) funding, which has led to reduced availability of appointments and stress among overloaded clinicians.

The reduction in NHS funding means that dentists cannot take on new publicly funded patients with the limited fees on offer. Across the UK, waiting lists and waiting times continue to increase for publicly funded dentistry, and the BBC reported that nine out of ten dental practices were not accepting new NHS-funded adult patients for treatment. This has had various consequences for both patients and clinicians. Faced with an inability to obtain appointments, patients have resorted to travelling long distances to seek care or—alarmingly—attempted to perform their own dental work. In response to higher operational costs and tightening public funding, dentists generally have demonstrated a lack of morale, according to another report published last month. It also found that two-thirds of dentists across the UK often think of leaving dentistry.

In an attempt to redress the situation, the Faculty of Dental Surgery has released a manifesto that outlines a range of governmental measures it believes are needed to prevent the situation from worsening further. Commenting on the recommendations, Prof. Grant McIntyre, dean of the faculty, stated on the university’s website: “We are pushing for a full-service redesign that supports all members of the dental profession, crucial for the future of NHS services across the four nations. This isn’t just about dental health either—the lack of access to dentists is having a knock-on effect on detection and early management of head and neck cancers.”

A key recommendation of the manifesto is that NHS dental funding should prioritise a prevention-focused approach, thereby reducing the number of patients seeking dental care in the first instance. The document also highlights the central importance of attracting and retaining dentists within the public sphere. It proposes a requirement for dental trainees to spend two years within an NHS practice in order to prevent them leaving for better-paid work in the private sector and emphasises the need to financially incentivise the recruitment of dentists into priority areas. As well as a desire for greater government funding, the manifesto argues that existing underspend in primary care dentistry should be retained within the dental sphere and not redirected to other healthcare areas. The document also tackles the issue of dentists’ burnout and stress, emphasising that greater clarity is needed around their access to NHS mental health services.

The full manifesto can be read here.

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