bdaThe British Dental Association (BDA) has set out its six-point manifesto for the General Election.

It is calling on all parties to follow the lead of devolved nations to combat oral health inequalities as well as insisting that Brexit negotiations consider workforce sustainability, with over 20% of activity in England currently delivered by EU and overseas nationals.

‘Political indifference to dentistry will guarantee a preventable disease remains the leading cause of hospital admissions among our children,’ BDA chair, Mick Armstrong, said.

‘Prevention should be at the heart of any effective healthcare strategy, yet successive governments have left dentists without the plans or priority to deliver on it.

‘As the parties prepare to set out their programmes oral health must not be left out of the picture.

‘The chief priority of policymakers has been to keep patient numbers down.

‘We have budgets set to treat just over half the population, cuts in state funding and charge hikes designed to make patients think twice about treatment.

‘The parties really need to think about reaching out to patients, not erecting new barriers to care.’

Six-point plan

Using the six-point plan, the BDA is calling on all parties to make sure oral health is not left out of the picture.

The six-point plan includes:

1. A national programme – end the patchwork of provision by supporting a truly national programme to tackle decay among children

  • Build on tried and tested programmes in devolved nations and local government to give all children the best start in life
  • Provide both targeted and universal support based on need, including access to free toothbrushes and fluoride toothpaste, supervised brushing, and fluoride varnish application
  • Maintain support for national dental health surveys and other epidemiological research to ensure effective targeting
  • Develop an engagement campaign modelled on Change for Life, encompassing both new and traditional media encouraging dental attendance and oral health best practice
  • Use existing funds from underspends in local budgets to guarantee access to NHS dentistry for all children
  • Channel proceeds from the Soft Drinks Industry Levy beyond the £415 million already committed to school sports to support these initiatives

2. Contracts – deliver an NHS contract system that rewards prevention

  • Make a decisive break from over a decade of discredited contracts based on the unit of dental activity to help improve health outcomes and access for all

3. Funding – provide a fair funding settlement to make NHS dentistry viable

  • Provide a long-term funding settlement for NHS dentistry that can support the provision of quality care to patients
  • End the over-reliance on NHS charge revenue. Rule out above-inflation increases, and maintain patient contributions as a stable or declining proportion of the NHS dental budget

4. Brexit – guarantee the stability and sustainability of dentistry as the UK leaves the European Union

  • Provide certainty to dentists from EU countries
  • Support practices with additional costs for materials and equipment that may emerge through new trade arrangements or changes in the value of sterling
  • Ensure both education and immigration policies evolve to ensure UK dentistry remains sustainable in the long term
  • Give full consideration to the unique challenges facing providers on the border with the Irish Republic

5. Sugar – ensure the Soft Drinks Industry Levy marks the beginning – not the end – of action on sugar

  • Protect children from junk food marketing everywhere
  • Restrict in-store promotions of sugary products
  • Extend the Soft Drinks Industry Levy to include sweetened milk-based, sports and energy drinks

6. Regulation – fix a broken system that has failed patients and practitioners

  • Deliver primary legislation to support efficient health watchdogs capable of delivering ‘right touch’ regulation
  • Put an end to the culture that encourages ‘defensive dentistry’ and jeopardises patient care.

‘Every day dentists are confronting deep and persistent health inequalities, unsupported and underfunded and shackled by failed contracts, overregulation and red tape,’ Mick Armstrong continued.

‘The next government must confront these challenges or leave the future of the service in doubt.’

The BDA’s manifesto, titled Putting Prevention First, is available to download here.