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BDA warns new chancellor that further cuts will kill NHS dentistry

The British Dental Association has warned new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt that “there is simply no more fat to trim” in terms of NHS dentistry funding. (Image: photocosmos1/Shutterstock)

LONDON, UK: Amid the political upheaval that has engulfed the UK in recent weeks, the British Dental Association has written an email to new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt pleading with him to avoid cutting funding for National Health Service (NHS) dentistry. It comes after Hunt told the UK Cabinet that “everything is on the table” in terms of funding cuts as he prepares to announce his public fiscal plan on 31 October.

Hunt was appointed to the role on 14 October when Kwasi Kwarteng was dismissed after just 38 days as chancellor by the then Prime Minister Liz Truss. In its email and in a related press release, the BDA appealed to Hunt’s prior experience as chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee, stating that he has been a strong proponent for “reform in dentistry” as well as “a fully funded workforce plan for the NHS”. The union stressed that NHS dentistry, since the financial crisis of 2008, had “faced cuts with no parallel anywhere in the health service, going into the pandemic with lower government contributions—in cash terms—than it saw a decade ago”.

“In blunt terms, NHS dentistry is approaching the end of the road,” the email stated. “The government has set worthy objectives to improve access and workforce retention. However, these goals cannot plausibly be achieved within the historic financial constraints set by the Treasury.”

“There is simply no more fat to trim, short of denying access [to] an even greater proportion of the population,” it continued. “In your former role, we believe you recognised the scale of this crisis. NHS dentistry is already on the critical list. Any further cuts will kill the patient.”

The BDA has estimated that it would take an extra £880 million per year to restore NHS dentistry funding to its 2010 levels. Annual dental statistics released in August by the NHS revealed 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. Meanwhile, recent research conducted by the BBC has revealed the true extent of the patient backlog caused in part by the pandemic, with a reported nine in ten NHS practices stating that they are unable to accept new adult patients.

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