Your editorial on the crisis in dentistry (2 May) is timely. However, to suggest “tooth loss mainly affects people later in life” glosses over the fact that child dental health is in a poor state. Dental caries are the most common reason for five- to nine-year-olds in England to be admitted to hospital. Over 60,000 children were admitted to hospital to have teeth removed in 2015-16.
As Donna Ockenden pointed out in her review of maternity services, it is only with a robustly funded, well-staffed and trained workforce that safe and compassionate care can be delivered. This applies to all of the NHS, including dentistry.
Sadly, the workforce planning amendment alluded to in the health and care bill was rejected. There has been no workforce plan for the NHS since 2003. The government would rather claim that its inadequate funding commitments are enough to solve all the NHS’s problems, whereas with 110,000 staff vacancies, ageing equipment and estate and rising demand there is no way that this can be true.
Claims that the NHS has had record levels of funding without relating this to need are meaningless. If my pension went up by one penny a month I would have a record level of income, but not enough to compensate for inflation, price rises and the underfunding of public services that are chipping away at the social wage.
It’s time to demand a public dental service that will end the decay. This means rigorous manpower planning for current and future needs, and necessary investment in training and facilities.
Dr John Puntis
Co-chair, Keep Our NHS Public