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Why is it so hard to find an NHS dentist?

Featured Image Credit: Evanto Elements

Trying to find a dentist on the NHS has grown increasingly difficult over recent years.

A study conducted by the BBC asked just under 7,000 NHS dental practices if they are taking new adult patients and found that 9/10 of these practices were not.

There is considerable frustration in Canterbury at the moment with it being a regular occurrence for residents to express their frustration at the lack of NHS dentists available.

Screenshot from Canterbury Resident Group post.

Can anyone recommend a patient dentist? Preferably private as I very much doubt I’ll be seen by NHS” – someone posted anonymously.

Another Canterbury resident shared their experience. Lisa Carter said “I moved from Leicester almost two years ago, still not got a dentist. I’ve tried Canterbury, Herne Bay, Thanet, Faversham and Ashford, nothing”.

Over 2,000 out of just under 24,000 dentists providing NHS care in England quit the health service last year, according to NHS figures; 951 left the year before that. Each of those dentists would have had a caseload of about 2,000 patients, leaving perhaps four million people without access to NHS care.” – This Week Science & Health.

Staffing issues, Brexit, COVID-19 and “broken contracts”?

‘This Weeks’ Science & Health claims that this crisis is partly because of, much like a lot of the NHS, staffing issues.

Some dentists claim that their staffing issues had taken a hit since Brexit as it has affected oversea recruitment from Europe. More often than not, dentists also blame COVID-19, saying that some dentists went to their home countries during the pandemic and decided not to come back.

Others claim that issues were started long before COVID and that it is due to a dentistry contract and reform from 2006.

Before 2006 NHS dentists were paid for each piece of work they did, however, reforms in this year meant they now receive a contract to deliver dental treatment which commits them to perform a certain number of treatments for a fee, paid for by the NHS and funding is lacking.

Because of this contract, the amount of work practices can do is capped, which is why many dentists right now cannot take on new patients.

Broken contract” – British Dental Association. 

This is causing dentists to shy away from NHS work due to the contract and this forces them to go private as they are paid more for their time.

The British Dental Association adds that “dentists are simply not seeing a future in the NHS”.