NHS dentistry faces an ‘uncertain future’ after 45% say they are less likely to seek routine care during the new restrictions.
This is according to the latest statement from the British Dental Association (BDA).
Additionally, 45% say they would be likely to cancel a routine appointment if they had one booked during the third national lockdown.
Data also shows that dentists are feeling the impact of the latest COVID-19 measurements, which are set to be in place until at least mid February.
For example, nearly eight in 10 practices (79%) report a spike in cancelled or missed appointments in 2021. And 43% say they have seen a higher rate of no shows in comparison to earlier stages of the pandemic.
More than three quarters of practices say they are experiencing staffing problems this month. Data shows that 39% state COVID infections as the key reason with more than half (53%) citing staff isolation. In addition, 42% say childcare issues are the most disruptive.
In December 2020, it was announced that practices delivering NHS dentistry will now need to deliver 45% of their pre-pandemic activity targets.
But the BDA argues that the new requirements force practices to prioritise non-urgent care, sparking calls for the targets to be abandoned.
Two fifths (41%) of practices are currently operating below 36% of their targets, according to latest research.
Hard to justify
Dave Cottam is chair of the British Dental Association’s general dental practice committee. He said: ‘Practices are open and safe, but with lockdown back patients are voting with their feet.
‘Cancellations are surging, while increasing number of staff are sick, self-isolating or struggling to secure childcare. Targets that were always hard to justify are now impossible to deliver. This leaves scores of dedicated NHS practices set to go to the wall.
‘To their credit Ministers have taken a pragmatic approach during this pandemic. From face masks to furlough when the facts change, so have the policies. Dentistry cannot be the one exception.’
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