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Four million adults missing out on NHS dental care

Long waiting lists and cost are the biggest barriers

Around four million adults in England are missing out on NHS dental appointments, data shows.

An analysis by the British Dental Association (BDA) reveals over 1.4 million adult patients have tried and failed to access care and a further two million have not tried in the belief they would be unable to secure an appointment.

The research shows 130,000 people are on waiting lists and over 700,000 cited cost as a barrier.

The BDA said this brings a level of unmet need to over four million people, or nearly one in 10 of the adult population.

The data also indicates lower success rates among patients attempting to secure an appointment for the first time, the young and ethnic minorities.
The BDA said the figures reflect the perfect storm facing patients, as budget cuts, contract failure and staffing problems bite.

NHS dentistry is operating on a budget that has remained largely static since 2010, however patients are contributing a greater share each year through increasing NHS charges.

Research suggests recruitment problems have become endemic, with 75% of practices struggling to fill vacancies and 59% of dentists stating their intentions to reduce or end NHS work.

Dave Cottam, the BDA’s chair of general dental practice, said access problems are no longer affecting a few hotspots, but are now the reality for millions across every English region.

“The public are entitled to access care, but the system is stacked against them. They face practices struggling to fill vacancies, NHS charges designed to discourage attendance, while our contracts cap patient numbers,” he added. “Those losing out are the patients who need us most.”