'Slow death' of NHS dentistry as 80% of clinics stop taking new patients - is your practice affected?

19 December 2023, 11:26 | Updated: 19 December 2023, 11:32

8 in 10 dentists are not accepting new adult patients in England.
8 in 10 dentists are not accepting new adult patients in England. Picture: Alamy

By Ana Truesdale

Most dental practices in England are not accepting new patients, as a think tank says NHS dentistry as its 'most perilous point'.

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The Nuffield Trust think tank has revealed that NHS dentistry services in England are at their most 'perilous point' due to government cuts.

In a report, the think tank said: "The NHS is not commissioning enough dentistry to cover the needs of the population."

It revealed that in 2022/2023, £535 million less was spent on dental services than in 2014/2015.

The think tank also found that 6 million fewer treatments are done by NHS dentistry each year than before the pandemic.

According to NHS data, 8 in 10 dental clinics in England are not accepting new adult patients.

Chairman of the British Dental Association's general dental practice committee, Shawn Charlwood, said the think tank's report "reads like the last rites for NHS dentistry."

He added: "The government say NHS dentistry should be accessible for all who need it. The plain facts are we're not seeing any evidence of the reforms or the resources to realise that ambition."

Less than 1% of dental practices in South West England are accepting new adult NHS dental patients.
Less than 1% of dental practices in South West England are accepting new adult NHS dental patients. Picture: Alamy

The British Dental Association said the problems with accessing dental care are being fuelled by an 'exodus' of NHS dentists.

4969 dental surgeries in England reported whether or not they were accepted new patients.

Percent of dental practices not taking any new NHS patients in England:

  • South West: 79%
  • South East: 59%
  • London: 29.7%
  • Eastern: 54.2%
  • East Midlands: 66.4%
  • West Midlands: 45.5%
  • Yorkshire and The Humber: 66.4%
  • North West: 50.3%
  • North East: 64.8%

Percent of dental practices not taking new adult NHS patients in England:

  • South West: 99%
  • South East: 87.6%
  • London: 59.7%
  • Eastern: 91%
  • East Midlands: 94.3%
  • West Midlands: 73.2%
  • Yorkshire and The Humber: 84.9%
  • North West: 77.5%
  • North East: 96.8%

You can check new patient availability at your local dental practice using the NHS website.

Read more: Desperate patients rip out teeth with bare hands and resort to glueing replacements in NHS dentist crisis

Read more: Junior doctors’ strike to affect patient care, NHS boss warns

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: "The Conservatives have left NHS dentistry to wither on the vine, and now the service is barely worthy of the name. Patients are told to go without or do it themselves, with DIY dentistry now shockingly common in Tory Britain.

"The slow death of dentistry is the Ghost of Christmas Future for the NHS, if the Conservatives are given a fifth term: those who can afford it going private and those who can't left with a poor service for poor people."

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: "We are making progress to boost NHS dental services."

The department said it would publish a dental recovery plan soon. It said it had already moved to improve access to dental services, including increasing dental training places by 40%.

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