“RADICAL reform” is needed to address inequalities in access to dental treatment across North Yorkshire and to help counter the “broken and dysfunctional” service nationally, says the chairman of NYCC's scrutiny of health committee.

After a survey showed 90 per cent of UK dental practices were not accepting new adult NHS patients, the Government’s Health and Social Care Committee launched an examination of the struggle faced by many people in accessing an NHS dentist.

NYCC’s scrutiny of health committee has written to MP Steve Brine, who chairs the national committee, in response to a call for evidence in support of a public inquiry into access to dentistry.

The chairman of the scrutiny of health committee, Cllr Andrew Lee, said: “For some years, the issues with being able to access an NHS dentist has been a high priority on the agenda for the scrutiny of health committee. Feedback consistently indicates it being extremely problematic to find, access and retain an NHS dentist.”

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A spokesperson for NYCC said the committee’s conclusion was that the only solution is “radical and quick reform of dental commissioning”, with members hearing many examples of the lack of access to dentistry.

The committee, which comprises county councillors and co-opted district and borough councillors, recognises inequalities present a major problem in accessing dental services.

The county council spokesperson added: "For example, in North Yorkshire, Scarborough residents have a greater challenge in accessing dentistry than those in Harrogate, due, in part, to the difference in demographics."

'Radical reform is absolutely needed'

Cllr Lee said: “Radical reform is absolutely needed. The solution lies in the management of dental services. Recruitment and retention remain difficult, and dentists themselves are frustrated with the service they can provide. 

“The problem does not lie with recruiting dentists, the problem lies with a broken and dysfunctional dental contract with severe underfunding.

“Dentists themselves cannot rectify this and it is creating by default a two-tier system whereby those that can afford to go private do so and others struggle to access any kind of care.”

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The committee hopes its input will help to forge a way forward for improving access to dentistry.

It sees a huge opportunity for the new Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) to take a greater role in commissioning NHS dentistry services, offering a way forward that is consistent across the country with place-based expertise and knowledge.

The inquiry closed last month (January) and its finding will be published in due course.