The British Dental Association has reported that 14.5 million fewer NHS dental procedures took place in England between March and the end of August 2020. It is estimated that the figure rose to over 19 million by the end of October.
Owing to official restrictions, 70% of practices are now operating at less than half their pre-pandemic capacity. 55% of practices estimate they can maintain their financial sustainability for 12 months or less.
Prior to the pandemic unmet need for NHS dental services in England was estimated at over 4 million people over 18, or nearly 1 in 10 of the adult population with families in Portsmouth facing ferry rides and patients in parts of Cornwall round trips of up to 120 miles to access care.
The widely discredited, target-driven NHS contract – dubbed by the Commons Health Committee as “unfit for purpose” – funded care for little over half the population before the pandemic and prompted a collapse in morale within the workforce.
The BDA has urged current Health and Social Care Committee Chair Jeremy Hunt MP to resume the inquiry initiated in the last Parliament that was canned by the snap general election at the end of 2019.
British Dental Association Chair Eddie Crouch said:
“For many people dentistry effectively ceased to exist at lockdown, as a system already in crisis was pushed ever closer to the brink.
“The difference now is problems that have dogged families from Cornwall to Cumbria for decades are now the reality in every community in the UK.
“The arrival of COVID vaccines will not solve the problems facing millions of our patients. Sadly ‘business as usual’ in dentistry means postcode lotteries, failed contracts, and underfunding.
“The Government says the mantra is ‘build back better’. It must apply that logic to dental services.”