More dental treatments in Bedfordshire last year
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Dental services in Bedfordshire showed some signs of recovery from the coronavirus pandemic last year, as more treatments were carried out.
But the British Dental Association said the latest figures – which show treatments remain below pre-pandemic levels across England despite a surge in activity – show NHS dentistry is "on its last legs" and in need of urgent change.
In the year to March, a total of 423,434 courses of treatment were delivered to adults and children in the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes CCG area, figures from NHS Digital show.
This was more than double the 184,008 treatments delivered in 2020-21. Pre-pandemic data for the area is unavailable.
Different figures show in the two years to June, 246,841 adults saw their local NHS dentist in Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes – 34% of the over-18 population, down from 38% in the 24 months to June 2021.
Some 46% of children (108,898) were seen by NHS dentists between July 2021 and June this year, compared to 31% over the same period the previous year.
Across England, dentists carried out 26.4 million treatments in 2021-22, though the BDA said this is just two-thirds of the average volumes delivered annually in the five years prior to the pandemic – 39.4 million.
Eddie Crouch, chairman of the BDA, said: "What we're seeing isn't a recovery, but a service on its last legs.
"The Government will be fooling itself and millions of patients if it attempts to put a gloss on these figures.
"NHS dentistry is lightyears away from where it needs to be. Unless ministers step up and deliver much needed reform and decent funding, this will remain the new normal."
The BDA said that while new PM Liz Truss pledged urgent reform of NHS dentistry during the leadership election, it had seen no indication that the Treasury will be mandated to provide the cash needed to rebuild and reform of services.
The latest data comes after a BDA and BBC analysis earlier this month found that across England 91% of NHS practices were not accepting new adult patients – 4,933 of 5,416 – rising to 97% in the East Midlands, and 98% in the South West, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber.
According to the NHS Digital figures, there were 526 NHS dentists working across the former NHS Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes CCG area in the year to March – meaning each one had the equivalent of 1,823 patients on their roster.
An NHS spokesman said: “The latest data show dental services are recovering post-pandemic, with over 26 million patient treatments delivered last year – up 120% from the year before, along with 1.7 million more children getting seen by an NHS dentist.
“To further support the ongoing restoration of NHS dentistry, we recently announced the first significant changes to dentistry since 2006, helping practices to improve access for the patients that need dental care the most.”
In July, clinical commissioning groups were abolished and replaced with integrated care boards across England.