£1m returned to health board by NHS dentists
The Welsh Government has been accused of being “too slow” to get to grips with a crisis in NHS dentistry as patients wait for months in pain or pay out thousands for treatment.
According to data released by the Welsh Liberal Democrats, in the year to April 2023, 16 NHS dentistry contracts were returned to Cardiff and Vale University Health Board at a value of more than £1m.
Three providers ceased NHS provision altogether at a cost of more than £650,000 and a further provider reduced their NHS provision at a cost of more than £200,000.
Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Jane Dodds MS said: “I hear week in, week out about people struggling to access NHS dental services. There is something clearly very wrong if 16 NHS dental providers in Cardiff and the Vale had to return more than £1m in NHS funding last year.
“The Welsh Government is much too slow to get to grips with the crisis in NHS dentistry. People are being left waiting for months and months in pain, or forking out thousands of pounds in order to get treatment.
“The Welsh Labour Government must get to grips with this crisis to ensure that everyone can see a dentist wherever, and whenever they need to.”
A spokesperson for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board said: “Access to General Dental Services (GDS) remains a priority for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board.
“In line with Welsh Government direction for 2023/24, GDS practices can choose to operate either under Dental Contract Reform with revised national metrics or historic contractual arrangements based wholly on Units of Dental Activity (UDA’s).
“At Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, 74% of GDS contractors are operating under Contract Reform with 26% under historic contract arrangements. Dental Contract Reform has provided opportunities to maximise patient access, with new contract performance metrics requiring achievement of thresholds for new patients activity and new urgent patient contacts.
“Sustainability of contracts is also a key priority to maintaining access to dental care, with two contracts returned in 2022/23 and two contract reductions. Both returned contracts have been successfully retendered and the contract reductions are going out to tender, maintaining access for affected patients.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “It is always disappointing when a dentist decides to reduce or end their NHS commitment. When this happens the funding for the lost provision remains with the Health Board in order for it to replace the level of NHS dental services.
“We understand that the funding associated with two of the contracts returned has already been recommissioned and the third contract is currently going through a procurement process before being awarded.”
“Financial sanctions are an unfortunate consequence of paying in advance for dental services. Where activity is not delivered it is right and proper that health board recover monies from contract holders that can be reinvested this is local dental services.”
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