The BDA has questioned Health Secretary Matt Hancock's priorities, following the launch of his new 'prevention focused' vision for the NHS which failed to meaningfully engage on wholly preventable oral diseases like tooth decay.
While deep and preventable oral health inequalities persist in both child and adult populations, in the last five years the Government's spend per head on NHS dentistry has fallen £4.95, from £40.95 to £36, while patient charges have increased by over 23%. Tooth decay is the number one reason for hospital admissions for children aged 5-9, and paediatric extractions have cost the NHS £165 million on extractions in hospitals since 2012.
Dental leaders have criticised the Health Secretary for failing to unlock the preventive potential of the service. The Prevention is better than cure document, makes one passing reference to improving oral health of children. The government's centrepiece Starting Well oral health programme, which is targeting high needs children, has not received a penny of new investment, and is operating in parts of just 13 local authorities in England.
The vision does not touch on delivery of a prevention-focused NHS dental contract, which has been a Conservative Manifesto commitment since 2010. The current system continues to fuel patient access problems across England.
BDA Chair Mick Armstrong said: "The Health Secretary says he wants to champion prevention. Sadly he's had more to say about broccoli than wholly preventable oral diseases that are costing our NHS millions.
"When tooth decay remains the number one reason for child hospital admissions, treating dentistry as an afterthought looks more than careless.
"England's huge oral health inequalities are fuelled by poverty and the lack of a coherent strategy. The starting point for any solution won't be 'Big Data' or Apps, it requires political will from Westminster and an end to year on year cuts."