I made the decision to stop providing NHS dentistry a few years ago because I felt it was impossible to deliver the high standard of dentistry I wished to under the current NHS system. Sadly I don't think there will be any improvements in the near future. Fortunately for those able to pay there is excellent dental care availble using state of the art technology, equipment and techniques. However for those less able to afford private dentistry things are far from ideal.
By Sam Marsden6:00AM GMT 02 Jan 2014
Ministers are accused of hiding the "rotten truth" about mismanagement of NHS dental services in a letter signed by more than 100 family dentists
NHS dentistry is 'unfit for purpose', professionals claim Photo: Getty Images
NHS dentistry is “unfit for purpose” as a result of successive Governments’ obsession with centralised targets at the cost of allowing professionals to spend enough time with patients, Ministers have been warned.
More than 100 family dentists have signed a letter to the Telegraph which accuses Ministers of hiding the “rotten truth” about the “compromised and mismanaged” system of state-funded dental treatment in England.
They say the “continuous limitations and compromises” that hamper their work mean it is impossible for them to deliver the high standards of care to the whole population promised by the Government.
The signatories highlight findings that tooth decay is the third most common reason for a child to be admitted to hospital and that nearly half of all adults suffer from serious gum problems.
They write: “We are witnessing the manipulation of Government figures and statistics that hide the rotten truth, such as dumbing-down how decay is measured and reported, by avoiding modern methods like X-Rays. Just using ‘visible’ eyesight alone misses the hidden decay that’s rotting the population’s teeth.”
The dentists have spoken out in response to the concerns about patient care highlighted by the Francis Report into failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, which led to up to 1,200 unnecessary deaths.
They express fears that it is now “inevitable” that NHS dentistry will experience a disastrous breakdown in care comparable to the mismanagement found at Stafford Hospital between 2005 and 2009.
“The Government and their civil servants continues to promise the public that all the dental clinical health and prevention needs for the population of England are met under the NHS dentistry system, to the highest standards,” the letter states.
“Yet clearly under their continuous limitations and compromises on a national scale, that is frankly mission impossible for dental professionals to deliver from the start.”
The dentists continue: “We are so concerned that such compromised and mismanaged systems will deteriorate further, we are exposing the above concerns in the public interest now, so that those responsible for limiting NHS dentistry systems, can truly change to be more honest and publicly transparent.”
Dr Anthony Kilcoyne, a dentist in Haworth, West Yorkshire, who organised the letter, said his colleagues felt “massive frustration” at the pressure put on them to see patients as quickly as possible.
He argued that the problem had been getting worse since Labour introduced a more target-driven culture to NHS dentistry in 2006.
“I know dentists to whom the NHS is saying, ‘we are going to reduce your funding because you are spending too much time with patients and doing a good job’,” he said.
“All the targets are biased towards quantity rather than quality.”
Warning that much of the population could be left “dentally disabled” as a result of failings in NHS dentistry, he called for more emphasis on the prevention of tooth problems.
Dr Kilcoyne, who also teaches at Leeds University and was on the General Dental Council for ten years, said GPs were similarly being ordered not to spend too long seeing individual patients.
He said: “All of healthcare needs to work with patients. They are living, breathing, feeling, emotional people.
“They are not widgets, they are not products on a conveyor belt. Health professionals need time to care.”
Barry Cockcroft, NHS England's chief dental officer, said access to NHS dentistry had increased by over 1.2 million since 2010.
He added: “The improvement in oral health in this country over the last 30 years is something that the dental profession and the NHS should rightly be proud that is has played a part in.
"There is no credible evidence to support the suggestion that there is a 'growing disaster' in NHS dentistry."