Spending on NHS dentistry has fallen by more than a third in real terms since 2010, marking a real cut of £1bn, the British Dental Association (BDA) has said.
According to a report from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and its annual accounts, £2.899bn was spent on NHS dentistry in 2022/23 – levels which the BDA has said are equal to when the Coalition first took power.
The real terms cut is a result of a decade of austerity and recent underspend in the dental budget, the BDA said, emphasising that it is ‘not because of any lack of demand for NHS dentistry’.
The BDA said that while the Government has promised a recovery plan, it has given no clear signs it will offer the necessary reform or investment to ease the recruitment and retention crises.
The Association added that both the Prime Minister and health secretary have ‘boasted’ about the service’s £3bn budget, but said the Government has made ‘no attempt’ to keep pace with inflation and population growth.
Chair of the BDA Eddie Crouch said: ‘Ministers need to explain why – when desperate patients are pulling out their own teeth – they’ve let funding for NHS dentistry fall off a cliff.
‘Promised ring fences have been torn down around a budget that’d already been cut to the bone. The Prime Minister promised to ‘restore’ NHS dentistry. Instead, he’s taking it back in time.’
Analysis shared this month by the Liberal Democrats revealed that more than 100,000 children have been hospitalised since 2018 for rotting teeth.
In December, the Government confirmed it will not force ICBs to appoint a dentist to their board, stating that it is already possible ‘where they deem [it] necessary’.
In September, analysis indicated 4.4 million children were not seen by an NHS dentist in the last 12 months.