Tony Kilcoyne has raised concerns over the NHS dental service in England calling it ‘unfit for purpose’.
In his letter, published in The Telegraph and signed by more than 400 dentists, Dr Kilcoyne compares the dental care provision in England with that of ‘Third World arenas’ and calls on Sara Hurley, the new chief dental officer, to ‘be fully open and transparent about existing limitations, if they are serious about making real progress.’
However, NHS England has rebuffed the comparisons with ‘Third World arenas’ with an NHS spokesperson saying: ‘These claims are wrong – more patients are getting the dental care they need, and 93% of people got an NHS dental appointment when they wanted one in the last 24 months.’
‘NHS Alliance agrees the NHS dental health system is unfit for purpose,’ Dr Mark Spencer, NHS Alliance co-chair, replied.
‘Dentistry needs to be much more a part of the multidisciplinary primary care landscape, and also needs to have a larger role in out of hospital urgent care.
‘If we are truly serious about improving out of hospital care then there must be increased funding for all primary care providers, including dentistry, to create an integrated care service.
‘As with many health inequalities, tooth decay is generally more common in deprived areas.
‘One factor undoubtedly revolves around parenting and poor diet, but also there is a lack of access to dental care.
‘This is a major problem facing many people, but especially those in deprived areas.
‘It is important we prioritise development and extra resource for areas of greatest deprivation, and NHS Alliance will continue to work with disadvantaged communities in 2016, sharing best practice and celebrating good leadership from across primary care.
‘Another reason to invest and promote dentistry is because dentists can have a much wider role to play than just preventing and treating tooth decay.
‘Dentists can use their skills to contribute to early detection of oral cancer, as well as distributing simple health promotion messages to patients, such as healthy eating and the dangers of smoking, increasing the focus on prevention and self-care.’