Posted: Mon 1st Aug 2022

Changes to help people access dental care in Wales don’t go far enough, say politicians

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Monday, Aug 1st, 2022

Measures aimed at making it easier for people in Wales to see an NHS dentist fail to address a staff shortage, politicians have said.

Last week the Welsh Government announced that most adults will now only need to see their dentist once a year, in a shake-up to improve access to NHS dentistry.

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

Rather than six-monthly check-ups, dentists will create a personal care plan with people and advise them how often they need to come in.

The government said this would allow those people who need more frequent care to be seen more regularly than the new once-a-year recall.

Children and young people under-18 will continue to have six-monthly check-ups.

However, Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds MS said low staffing numbers were the main reason for long waiting lists.

She said: ““This announcement from the Welsh Government does nothing to address the serious staffing crisis in the sector which is the main problem in terms of clearing backlogs.

“Research by the Liberal Democrats shows that 14% of dentists in Wales are set to retire soon, with the figure being as high as 20% in some health boards.

“We must get to grips with the staffing crisis if we are to tackle the sky-high waiting times for NHS dental treatment.”

North Wales MS, Sam Rowlands, said that more money needs to be made available for this service as people in the region “deserve better.”

Mr Rowlands said: “I obviously welcome any plans which may help ease the backlog in NHS dentistry and really do hope that a move to yearly check-ups will help people in North Wales.

“However, this is all well and good, and it seems to be the right approach but I am still receiving emails from constituents contacting me regarding their difficulties in accessing NHS dentists in North Wales.

“It seems to me at the moment that dentists, whilst seemingly happy to offer the private care, do not perhaps seem happy with the NHS contracts that the Welsh Government have put in place, because they are simply not offering their services through NHS work.

“Years of chronic underfunding and lack of planning has led to this problem and people are being forced to pay thousands to go privately or take extreme measures themselves.

“It is about time more money was made available for this service as people in North Wales deserve better.”

More than three-quarters (78%) of NHS dental practices have signed up to a variation of the Welsh Government’s dental contract.

The Welsh Government also wants to recruit more dentists and dental staff by offering support for students to find placements with practices in Wales.

Commenting on the move from six-monthly to annual check ups, Wales’ new chief dental officer Andrew Dickenson said: “People are now much better at maintaining their personal oral health.

“Together with the excellent service provided by our dentists, which reflects the benefits of brushing twice a day, the widespread use of fluoride toothpaste and avoiding sugary snacks and drinks between meals.

“Most adults do not need to see their dentist every six months anymore.

“By moving away from often unnecessary check-ups, dentists will have more time to provide people with the personal, tailored care they need and free up space to take on new NHS patients.”

Professor Dickenson added: “By increasing the number of dentists and helping them to work differently with their patients, we can ensure that everyone in Wales who wants NHS dental care, can get access to it.”

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