Calls for funding boost for NHS dentistry in Wales
British Dental Association Wales has called for an increase in funding from the Welsh Government amid accusations of “historic underfunding” compared to the rest of the UK.
At the weekend Welsh Conservatives urged the government to introduce a fair funding settlement for NHS dentistry in Wales and claimed that due to chronic underfunding accessing NHS dental treatment is becoming impossible and “waiting lists are exploding”.
Figures released by the Tories revealed government spending on NHS dentistry in Wales was £47 per head prior to the pandemic, compared to £55 in Scotland and £56 in Northern Ireland.
England has the lowest spend in the UK, with the amount of dentistry commissioned by NHS England reduced by more than 2 million units between 2010 and 2020 as UK Government contributions per head fell from £41.79 to £34.53.
Despite an additional £3 million of funding this financial year to provide additional appointments and the offer of a £2 million annual uplift in future, the BDA says few practices have been able to make use of the scheme given the huge increase in demand fuelled by most non-emergency treatments being halted for several months during the Covid pandemic.
Practices are also struggling to recruit new staff and the NHS has lost 8% of its dentists since the start of the pandemic.
Dr Russell Gidney, Chair of the British Dental Association’s Welsh General Dental Practice Committee, told ITV News Wales: “Dentists are working to a system designed to cap patient numbers, with budgets that have failed to keep pace with both rising prices and demand.
“This service needs more than a sticking plaster. Offers of additional funding with extra demands will simply stretch an exhausted workforce to breaking point.
“For over a decade, dentists have been forced to do more with less – often at the expense of their own well-being.
“Covid needs to mark a turning point. If the Welsh Government fails to support NHS dentistry now the service looks set to wither on the vine.”
Responding to the claims of underfunding, a Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We have provided an extra £3m this year alone for NHS dental services, and an extra £2m a year, each year, to increase people’s access to NHS dental services after a difficult two years.”
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