Posted: Wed 31st May 2023

Welsh Government urged to address NHS dental crisis by improving recruitment

North Wales news and information
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, May 31st, 2023

North Wales politicians have urged the Welsh Government to “urgently consider changes to help recruit more dentists.” ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

It comes as many patients have reportedly been left waiting up to two years to register with a Welsh NHS dentist,‌ with claims that around 93 per cent of Welsh dentists are not accepting new adult patients.​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​ ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

In some extreme cases people have been forced to carry out their own dental work to deal with the pain that they were in while waiting to see a dentist. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​ ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

Speaking in a Welsh Conservative-led debate in the Senedd, regional MS Sam Rowlands claimed that over a third of dentists plan to “reduce their Welsh NHS contracts.” ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

He called on the Welsh Government to urgently implement changes to boost dentistry recruitment in Wales by refunding tuition fees for those who work five years in Welsh NHS dental practices.
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Mr Rowlands said: “The British Dental Association states that 93 per cent of dental practices in Wales are no longer taking on new NHS adult patients.

“This is the worst rate in the UK and it is numbers like this which have created a need for this debate. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“We could talk for a long time about the Labour-run NHS being the worst in the UK, with a bloated two-year waiting list, the dire mismanagement of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, but we are here to highlight the disastrous running of Welsh dentistry, which continues in that Labour Party tradition of mismanagement of the NHS and mismanaging Wales. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“Over a third of dentists plan to reduce their Welsh NHS contracts, and I am sure that is a cause for concern for members.

“These overall statistics are, of course, a cause of serious concern for us, but within these are the individual experiences of people right across Wales, and perhaps I should declare an interest at this point, because my own family can’t get an NHS dentist, including my children. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“Every part of Wales is poorly served, and in my region of North Wales, as I shared a few months ago, I decided to conduct some research of my own.

“I contacted 69 NHS dentists in my region, spoke to 57 of those practices and the results were staggering.

“In all of North Wales, with a population of 700,000 people, not one NHS dental practice was able to take on new patients, with just four offering a place on a waiting list, likely to be over two years ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“Our residents pay their taxes and should expect to receive decent public services in return.” ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

Plaid Cymru’s health spokesperson Rhun ap Iorwerth highlighted a recent inquiry held by the Senedd’s health committee, which found that it was “impossible to provide a figure for how many people were on waiting lists for NHS dental treatment.” ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

He argued that the lack of data had made it harder to plan more sustainable services. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

Interim Plaid Cymru leader and North Wales MS Llyr Gruffydd described access to dentistry services in Wales as a three-tier system made up of those who can afford private care and those who cant. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

He said: “My office has contacted and spoken with 97 per cent of all dental practices across the north and, of those we spoke with, only 11 per cent are taking NHS patients on in the next 12 months. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“The average wait for an NHS space was two years. Just over a half of them are taking children on as NHS patients, and the waiting times for NHS children can be anywhere from three months to three years, with the average being two years. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“Now, that’s a damning indictment, and it does reveal the scale of Labour’s rotten record on dental services. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“There are three tiers within the service, as we’ve heard. There are those who can access NHS services, and they are very fortunate these days, and they’re becoming few and far between. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“There are those who can’t access NHS services but they can afford private treatment. They’re fortunate, but, as we’ve heard, some perhaps can’t really afford to pay but they have little choice. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“And there are some—and this is a cohort that’s increasing week on week, month on month—who don’t have access to NHS services and can’t afford to pay for private services. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“And the government hasn’t tackled that issue, and they are the people who will pay the price not only in terms of their dental health, but also in terms of their mental health.” ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

Health Minister Eluned Morgan argued that the dental industry has made some improvements since the pandemic, noting that a million patients had received NHS dental care in the last year. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

She said: ” We’ve got a huge amount of work to do. It’s not going to be fixed overnight, and frankly, I need a lot of money to fix it, and that’s something that, at the moment, is in short supply. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“So, none of this is going to be easy. We all want it to happen, but frankly, it is not going to happen overnight, and I think it’s really important that I level with everyone about that. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“We want to reach a position where everyone in Wales who needs dental care can access dental care. We estimate that around 20 per cent of the public were using private dentistry pre pandemic. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“We understand that some feel that they have been pushed into the private sector because they had difficulty in accessing an NHS dentist, but there isn’t 100 per cent demand for NHS dentistry here in Wales. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“Now, having said that, there is a gap, and I want to acknowledge that there is a gap and it will take us some time to deal with that. We’ve made progress, but there is quite a long way to go. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“We are going to try and reform the contract so that NHS work is more attractive to the current workforce. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“We’re also, by increasing the number of training places across the whole dental team, not just dentists but also dental therapists too. ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

“Before long, we will begin the tripartite negotiations on the new dental contract. This will, hopefully, give an assurance to the profession on the future of dentistry in Wales.” ‌​‌‌​​​‌‍‌​‌​‌​​​

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