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The government must develop an “urgent plan” to deal with the growing crisis in NHS dentistry, demanded a senior York adviser.
“NHS dentistry was in crisis before Covid hit, remaining underfunded and overburdened,” said Cllr Carol Runciman, York executive member for adult health and social care.
“The Covid measures and staff shortages have only compounded the growing problem in York and across the region.
“In addition to not being able to benefit from short-term dental assistance, people are now accumulating problems for the future without regular check-ups. ”
Cllr Runciman spoke as new figures revealed York’s dental crisis continued to escalate.
According to NHS figures released on Monday following a parliamentary question, there are 30 fewer dentists working in York now than just three years ago.
The number of dentists in town has fallen by nine in the past 12 months.
Data shows that in the year to March 31, 2019, 239 dentists were working in the CCG region of Vale of York. By March 2020, it had fallen to 218. And by March of last year, it had fallen to 209 – lower than at any time since 2015.
The numbers follow a report by Healthwatch York released in September last year, which found some dental offices in the city were reporting wait lists of up to two years – and that the average wait for treatment was between three and six months.
Up to 80% of people struggled to access prompt dental care, according to the report – and out of 39 dental offices in the city, none were accepting new adult patients from the NHS.
Cllr Runciman said: ‘This government talks about a good game on the NHS, but leaving so many people without access to a dentist only adds to the pressure facing GPs and the NHS.
“Ministers must put in place an emergency plan that would ensure residents have access to these vital services. ”
The British Dental Association (BDA) said that from this month NHS dentists were required by the government to treat at least 85% of the number of patients they treated before the Covid pandemic.
But nearly two-thirds of firms say they are “unable” to do so, according to the BDA.
Treating large numbers of patients is “entirely at odds” with efforts to prevent the spread of Covid, and “would put both patients and staff at unnecessary risk,” according to the organization. As a result, more than 40 percent of NHS dentists say they are now likely to change careers or retire early, according to the report.
BDA North Yorkshire representative Mark Green said: “Last year almost a thousand dentists left the NHS in England.
“For years we have worked on a failing system that has failed to recognize and reward commitment to the NHS. Now, to add insult to injury, ministers have imposed ridiculous targets during the Omicron wave.
“Colleagues who have worked their entire working lives in the NHS are now seeking the exit.”