According to an investigation by the British Dental Association (BDA), NHS dental care across the UK for vulnerable individuals is suffering due to financial pressures, leaving dentists concerned they will be unable to maintain the services they provide to their patients against a tide of decline and neglect.
In a survey, which examined dentists that focus on treating special care patient groups, two-thirds who responded stated that they are increasingly worried as dental posts have been lost or not replaced due to reorganization or budget cuts. And nearly the same number of those who responded explained that equipment is not being replaced.
Concerns regarding the effect on patients were clear. 83% of those surveyed believed patients were having to wait longer for treatment, 72% said the range of services being provided was being reduced and 58% felt the quality of services was suffering.
The BDA has written to the Department of Health, highlighting the worries raised by the survey and asking them to stress to Primary Care Trusts that financial cuts to services are not acceptable.
Dr Peter Bateman, Chair of the BDA's Salaried Dentists Committee, explained:
"This survey confirms fears that Government promises to protect frontline patient care are not being delivered on by PCTs. It paints a picture of vacancies not being filled, equipment not being replaced and increased waiting times for patients.
We understand that economic circumstances mean that tough choices must be made about the use of a finite pot of money, and allowing services for the vulnerable minority to falter may look like an easy option because these individuals are often less able to speak up for themselves, but salaried primary care dentists will not tolerate misguided decisions to put money before care for these patients.
That's why we're highlighting these problems now and demanding urgent action. Primary Care Trusts must be reminded of the Government's promise to protect frontline care and play their part in ensuring it is kept. If they fail to do so, our fear is that services will simply disintegrate, and by the time the National Commissioning Board assumes its responsibilities, primary salaried dental care will be a pale shadow of the service it is now."
Written by Grace Rattue