- 12 February 2021
- 4 min read
Should A Struggling NHS Formally Outsource Dentistry Services To Private Dentists?Subscribe To Advice
With patients being asked to pay for private dental care, or face waits of up to 2 years for an NHS appointment, should the NHS contract out its dentistry services to private providers?
Dentistry as an industry, and NHS Dentistry in particular, has been badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Beginning with practices being forced to close for several weeks during lockdown last year, the backlog of work is now ever growing.
In addition, social distancing requirements, as well as infection control measures and the availability of personal protective equipment have meant that dentists have been able to see fewer patients than they would normally.
If the NHS were to countenance more involvement from private dentistry, should it be just to help clear the backlog, or as a more permanent arrangement? Comment 💬 Like ❤️ Reply 🙂 below.
Between October and December 2020, hundreds of people were recorded as having contacted Healthwatch England to complain about dentistry issues.
A document from the watchdog recorded that "a lack of NHS dentist appointments" remains the most common issue - with people being asked to wait for up to two years.
Given that NHS dentistry has been an area in need if improvement for years, do you think that the pandemic, and subsequent focus on the NHS as a whole will mean that the issues will finally be addressed and rectified?
According to some patients "dentists have prioritised private care or asked them to pay private fees if they wanted any treatment”.
Apparently, one patient was offered a procedure privately for £1,700 which would have been £60 on the NHS.
If not a wholesale outsourcing, do you think that NHS management and government would have the mindset and willingness to operate a hybrid model, where private dentists treat NHS patients at a subsidised rate?
This lack of available treatment is backed up by a study by the Oral Health Foundation, which found that nearly 25% of Britons have gone online to fix their dental problems at home during the pandemic.
Also, Boots reported sales of home dental kits had increased by 87% in the last quarter of 2020 when compared with the previous year.
Should there be more public health information for dental related issues, and should dental patients be encouraged to still seek professional help alongside NHS patients with other afflictions?
The chair of Healthwatch England, Sir Robert Francis QC said that the coronavirus pandemic had exacerbated the impact of years of structural issues in NHS dentistry.
Healthwatch England has called on the government, the NHS and the dental profession to work with patients to fix the systemic issues relating to dental care.
Given the recent announcement that some of the NHS privatisation initiatives of the Cameron era are to be reversed, is there any likelihood that more involvement of private dentistry would be permitted, and if so, allowed to run successfully?
Or is the culture within the NHS and government too ideologically opposed to private sector involvement in health services for it to be a viable option?
"All efforts should be made to treat those in need of urgent care and provide more accurate and up-to-date information to help people find and access NHS dental care," said Sir Robert Francis.
"In the longer term, the Department of Health and Social Care must prioritise the importance of oral health and commit to improving access to dentistry for everyone who needs it” he went on to add.
If the NHS is serious about providing suitable levels of dental care, what other ways do you think this could be achieved if not allowing for the involvement of the private healthcare sector?
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said the government was committed to supporting the dental sector through the pandemic: “We continue to work closely with the NHS to increase access as fast as possible, while protecting staff and patients from Covid-19 infection.”
Do you think that the needs of NHS dentistry will be overlooked in favour of more publicly prominent areas like cancer treatment once the threat from COVID recedes over the spring and summer months?
Please let us know what you think in the comments.
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