Welsh Conservative comment on move to annual dental check-ups

In a move to ease the NHS dentistry backlog in Wales, the Welsh Government is to recommend people only need see their dentist once a year.

Ministers claim that changes to NHS dental contracts and leaving behind the practice of recalling people for check-ups every six-months will help free up dentists’ time and enable practices to take on up to 112,000 new NHS patients a year.

The Welsh Conservatives have welcomed the decision as “the pragmatic solution to a problem exacerbated by the Labour Government” due to a lack of funding and inability to prepare services to deal with post-Covid demand.

Spend on NHS dentistry in Wales was £47 per head prior to pandemic. The Welsh Conservatives, like the British Dentistry Association, believe “it is time at the very least to bring it in line with investment in Scotland and Northern Ireland” where it is £55 and £56 per head, respectively.

The new contracts have also been derided by the industry: Dyfed Powys Local Dental Committee (DPLDC) – representing a majority of NHS dental providers in the Hywel Dda health board area – said that all practices are unable to sign the new dentist contract proposed by the Labour Government.

That contract proposes to reduce practice’s contract values to 25% of the agreed existing levels. Other dental professionals have said it reduces focus on regular check-ups; makes dentists choose between old and new patients; and pays dentists based on out-of-date performance data.

It was reported in December that dentists may never make up the backlog built up during the pandemic in Wales.

Commenting, Welsh Conservative and Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said:

“I welcome the move towards annual check-ups at the dentist and I do think it will help with easing the backlog in NHS dentistry without seriously impacting on patients.

“However, this is the pragmatic solution to a problem exacerbated by the Labour Government itself from years of underfunding compared to other devolved nations and failing to prepare for demand that was always going to build up during the pandemic, the consequences of which are clear to see through the NHS.

“We’ve been saying for months that this attitude towards dentistry – in conjunction with the derided contracts Labour ministers are dishing out – will lead to dental deserts across Wales, leading to people forking out thousands to go private or having to rip out their own teeth.

“Labour need to get a grip on the NHS and stop breaking all the wrong records.”

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