Number of Devon dentists quitting NHS work rises by more than half

21 Jun 2024
Richard Foord standing in frnt of the sign for Honiton Dental Centre

The number of dentists quitting NHS work in Devon has risen by more than 53% since 2018/19 new research has revealed, as the Liberal Democrats announce their push for a £750 million ‘rescue package’ for dentistry.

Under the Liberal Democrat proposals, the NHS dentistry budget in England would see a significant cash injection on top of its current funding, which would help reform the NHS contract to encourage more dentists to take on NHS work.

This would act as a ‘rescue package’ for dentistry in Devon, which saw 66 dentists leave the NHS in 2022/23. That is a rise of 23 on the number of leavers compared with 2018/19, or an increase of 53.5% overall.

It was first reported in 2021 that no dentist in Devon was taking on new NHS patients. This was confirmed to still be the case last year, and in January Richard Foord raised the case of a 75 year old couple in Parliament who called over 20 dental practices and still could not find one taking NHS patients.

This dire situation threatens to get worse with 17% of NHS dentists in Devon nearing retirement age, creating the potential for even fewer dentists to cope with already overstretched services.

Across England, the number of dentists leaving the NHS has risen by a third in the past four years. A further 3,532 dentists are nearing retirement age, over one in seven (14.6%) of the total dentists in the country. 

The Liberal Democrats are calling for urgent reforms to the dental contract to deliver more NHS dentist appointments and free check-ups for children. This, backed by funding of £750m a year by the end of the Parliament, would allow them to:

  • Bring dentists back to the NHS from the private sector by fixing the broken NHS dental contract and using flexible commissioning to meet patient needs.
  • Introduce an emergency scheme to guarantee access to free NHS dental check-ups for those already eligible: children, new mothers, those who are pregnant and those on low incomes.

Liberal Democrat Candidate for Honiton & Sidmouth, Richard Foord said:

“People across Devon are going without what should be the very basic of dental care, with it now being seemingly impossible for most to get an appointment when they need one. 

“It cannot be acceptable that people across our county are forced to wait in pain, not knowing if they will even be able to register with a dentist - let alone get an appointment.

“This Conservative Government has pushed local health and dental services to the brink, and it is people in our community paying the price. They’ve let our services decay around us while taking little action to meaningfully address this crisis.

“The Liberal Democrats are calling for a Dental Rescue Package. This would fix the dental contract, keep dentists practicing here in the UK, and tackle the crisis in frontline care. Every vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote for real action to fix NHS dentistry.”

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