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Nearly a third of dental budgets going unspent in parts of England

Nearly a third of dental budgets going unspent in parts of England
By Beth Gault
28 February 2024

All ICBs are projected to underspend on their dental budgets in 2023/24, with some short by as much as 30%, according to new analysis.

In total, the predicted underspend against the national dental contract amounts to £355m, or 9.5% of the budget.

The British Dental Association (BDA) has said the underspend is due to practices struggling to hit their ‘punitive’ targets, and that the Government must ‘wake up’ to the crisis.

The data, from an FOI sent by HSJ, found that Lincolnshire ICB and Hampshire and Isle of Wight ICB are projected to underspend on their budgets by 30.4% and 29.9% respectively in 2023/24, which equates to £10.7m and £34m.

Norfolk and Waveney ICB is set to fall short by 27.1%, which amounts to £17m, while Somerset ICB is projected to underspend by £8m, which is 25.1% of its budget.

The BDA said that underspend did not reflect a lack of demand for NHS dentistry, but that practices can receive different levels of payment and that underspends are highest in areas where the unit of dental activity rates are lowest.

Earlier this month, the NHS Dental Recovery Plan increased the minimum value of activity from £23 to £28, and promised a ‘new patient’ payment of between £15-50 to treat patients who have not seen an NHS dentist in two or more years.

Speaking on the underspend, chair of the BDA’s general dental practice committee, Shawn Charlwood, said: ‘We’re seeing the results of a postcode lottery designed in Westminster.

‘Better funding supports better access for millions. The Government knows this but has set a new minimum rate that will only benefit one in ten practices. 

‘But we need more than tinkering with a broken system. Solving this access crisis requires real reform and fair funding.’

The secretary of North Yorkshire local dental committee (LDC), Mark Green, recently told Healthcare Leader that the NHS dental contract was the ‘biggest challenge’ for dentistry.

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