The British Dental Association (BDA) is calling for a fair deal for dentistry across the UK in 2014 that begins to address successive years of underfunding.
Submitting its evidence to the Doctors’ and Dentists’ Review Body (DDRB), the BDA has called for funding boosts for general practice and salaried primary care alike.
The BDA evidence argues that general dental practice is coming under increasingly unbearable pressure across the UK. In England, five years of inadequate funding uplifts and demands for efficiency savings have backed dentistry into a tighter and tighter corner.
In Northern Ireland, savage cuts to Health Service dentistry imposed earlier this year threaten patient-practitioner relationships and some practices’ viability. In Scotland, the implementation of a cash-limited budget for general dental services will limit the care that can be provided to patients.
And in Wales the implementation of the National Oral Health Plan, while welcomed by the BDA as a positive move, puts the onus on practitioners and adds to the pressures already facing them.
Challenges for primary salaried care across the UK are also highlighted by the BDA’s submission. It highlights concerns about posts being made redundant or left vacant, appropriate equipment not being available and increasing waiting times for new patient appointments.
A failure to modernise salaried services in Northern Ireland – the only country now not to have agreed updated terms and conditions for salaried services following an agreement to do so in Scotland in August 2013 – is also highlighted as a concern.
Problems facing dental academia continue. Although dental academic staffing levels are increasing very slowly, a significant reduction of the number of posts with research as part of their posts and some posts remaining unfilled do threaten the high quality of the UK’s dental research, it argues.
Dr Robert Kinloch, deputy chair of the BDA’s Principal Executive Committee, said: 'Health service dentistry across the UK is getting squeezed tighter and tighter. Investment in new equipment and practices is being squeezed in general practice, services for the vulnerable are being squeezed and the quality of research at our academic institutions is being squeezed. The result, ultimately, will be that the quality of patient care will be squeezed.
'Governments across the UK have been guilty of financially neglecting dentistry in recent years. Next year we need to see that trend reversed. We need positive decisions that recognise and address the challenges facing dentistry and demonstrate to patients and practitioners alike that Health Service dentistry remains a priority.'