The Welsh director of the British Dental Association has accused local health boards of standing in the way of expanding NHS dentistry in Wales.
Stuart Geddes has claimed that some LHBs are refusing to allow practices to take on newly qualified dentists, despite demand from patients.
In written evidence to the Assembly’s health, wellbeing and local government committee’s inquiry on workforce planning, Mr Geddes said: ‘The opening, in 1964, of the dental school in Cardiff and training of dentists in Wales with their subsequent retention in Wales has been the major contributor to the improvement in oral and dental health that was seen during the last century.
‘We regret that decay levels in children are now changing for the worse and without a well-trained dental team – and a proper dental disease prevention programme – this will unfortunately get worse.
‘However, there is little point in training more dentists in Cardiff if efforts to increase NHS provision are thwarted by the thick-headedness of LHBs who are concerned about funding but who generally do not see the prevention or treatment of oral and dental diseases or an expansion of NHS dentistry as a priority.’
Mr Geddes said there have been instances of LHBs failing to offer a contract to practices to allow them to expand their practice by either taking on a vocational dentist practitioner – a newly qualified dentist who has undergone workplace training – or recruiting a new dentist.
A BDA survey in August found that 63% of these VDPs wanted to stay on at their training practice but only half had been able to do so.
Mr Geddes said: ‘Many practices have historically looked upon vocational training as a means of recruiting to a permanent place in the practice, which is necessary if the practice is to expand its services to patients or to replace retiring practitioners.’
A spokesman for the Welsh Assembly Government told The Western Mail: ‘The vast majority of vocational dental practitioners remained in Wales when they completed their vocational training in 2007. On March 31, 2007 there were 1,186 dentists providing NHS treatment in Wales, compared with 1,150 in December 2006 and 975 dentists in June 1999.
‘The development of dental services has been supported by an additional £30m to allow LHBs to develop services based on local needs.’