A recent report by Healthwatch England has revealed a huge crisis looming within the UK NHS system. The report shows that people in the Uk are struggling to find a NHS dentist or be forced to pay for dental care that they can’t afford to pay for.
It has become near impossible for many to access any NHS dental care which forces them to either to pay for private dentistry services or to go without. This leaves many left suffering excruciating pain and also worsening health conditions as an effect of not being able to access dental care.
Healthcare Watch Report
A recent poll undertaken by Healthcare Watch revealed that of 2,026 adults based in England, nearly half (49%) of respondents, felt that NHS dental charges were unfair.
The poll also looked at people’s experiences of NHS dentistry revealed the following:
• 54% of people who had an NHS dentist appointment had problems doing so, showing that 63% respondents found it difficult to book an NHS appointment with more than three in ten people (31%) unable to access all the treatments they needed.
The Report Also Showed That:
46% of people had problems with the costs associated with their NHS dental care.
Revealing that(34% of respondents said they had no option but to pay privately to get all the required treatment that they needed, Showing that 24% commented saying that their NHS dentist didn’t explain the cost before starting treatment.
Approximately one in five people reported that their NHS dentist charged them more for their treatment than the advertised NHS charges.
21% of people that couldn’t access NHS treatment revealed that they suffered as a result of being unable to access treatment Of this, one in three (34%) respondents said a lack of access to dental care that inevitably led to more serious health problems.
Respondents also revealed that a lack of dental care made it hard to eat or speak properly leaving 19% of people avoiding people and social situations.
Why is there a shortage of NHS treatment?
Accessibility to NHS dental services has been gradually worsening over the last 10 years. Some years before 2020, the National Audit Office (NAO) reported that the remuneration system for dentists ‘was purely activity-based and had done nothing to incentivise tooth decay and care prevention.One of the main causes for the shortage being the Units of Dental Activity system.
Under the present system dentists are only being paid for Units of Dental Activity (UDA’s)for example doing treatment on tooth problems instead of offering regular check-ups and preventative treatments.
This has resulted in dental problems being left too long which eventually in a general decline in oral and physical health.
This along with the fact that the UDA targets for dental practices are notably unachievable has resulted in dentists moving away from offering NHS services and operating private services and no longer NHS treatment. As a result of the present UDA system the demand for public dental services has overtook the availability of NHS treatment for years.
In 2002, the NAO raised their concerns about the estimated shortage of NHS dentists. This resulted in approximately two million people being unable to register with an NHS dentist, unable to do so.Sadly since 2002 the demand for services has risen but the availability of services has reduced leaving a huge deficit.
The need for a complete reformation of the UDA system is greater than ever. Dentists should be offered renumeration for all NHS services and the attraction to work within the NHS system should be prioritised.
Address the funding crisis to ensure that funding is appropriate and adequate for the level of demand expected by the current population.
Attract newly qualified practitioners into the industry through apprenticeships, links with universities and advanced training programmes.
Incentivise practices to commit to NHS dentistry by reviewing targets, penalties and credit units.
Add dental health roles to the list of national shortages to ease accessibility into the industry for EU citizens.
The UK is experiencing a NHS dental crisis which at the same time is risking the health of thousands of people suffering from dental problems.
Not only does the lack of NHS dental services cause dental problems it can also affect a persons physical health which can deteriorate as a result of not being able to access dental services.
Resolving this crisis is more important now than ever.
Are you experiencing dental problems and unable to access any NHS dental services? Feel free to comment below and tell me about your experiences.
You can find a full copy of the report over at https://www.healthwatch.co.uk/news/2022-05-09/lack-nhs-dental-appointments-widens-health-inequalities
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