Coventry and Warwickshire among worst affected areas as NHS dental crisis worsens


Coventry and Warwickshire are among the areas of the country most affected by the worsening NHS dental crisis. Stark regional disparities in the provision of dental care across the country have been uncovered by the Association of Dental Groups (ADG), the professional association for health and dental practices and organizations employing dental professionals.

The findings are revealed in a new report, “England’s dental deserts: The urgent need to improve access to dentistry”. Out of 106 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in England, Coventry and was among the 20 most affected.

The ADG says Brexit, Covid and contractual challenges continue to drive NHS dentistry into critical condition, with ‘dental deserts’ emerging across the country. The ADG has identified the 20 most at-risk CCGs through analysis of data published in the NHS Dental Statistics for England reports.

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Coventry and Warwickshire CCG were found to be the 20 worst affected areas, with just 46 dentists per 100,000 population. Local residents felt the impact of this lack of services as only 39% of adults had seen a dentist in the past 24 months and 46% of children had seen a dentist in the past 12 months.

As dentists continue to leave the NHS, these numbers are likely to get worse. In 2020/21 there was a drop of nearly 1,000 NHS dentists in England.

In 2021/22 the figure has more than doubled with over 2,000 dentists leaving the NHS. With one full-time dentist caring for around 2,000 patients, that could mean up to four million patients are left without access.

For residents living in these “dental deserts,” there is a broader and far-reaching threat beyond the immediate impact on their dental health. Routine dental checkups are a vital first line of defense against oral cancers and type 2 diabetes, as dentists are trained to detect the warning signs of both.

The Association of Dental Groups has warned that the figures point to a potential health crisis looming

Early detection of oral cancer increases a patient’s chances of survival by 50-90%. Fewer dentists means fewer appointments available where these serious diseases can be detected in their early stages.

To solve the current dental crisis, the ADG proposes six key actions, which it has dubbed “Six to Fix”:

They are:

1. Increase the number of training places in the UK

2. Ongoing recognition of EU-trained dentists

3. Recognition of foreign diplomas

4. Simplify and speed up the process for dentists to get an NHS ‘interpreter number’

5. Enable more dental professionals (DCPs) to initiate treatments

6. Reform of the dental system with new ways of working to retain staff in the NHS

Was your last dental appointment a distant pre-pandemic memory?
Was your last dental appointment a distant pre-pandemic memory?

The ADG warns that unless the government takes urgent action to improve patient access in Coventry and Warwickshire and nationally, these dental deserts will continue to grow, along with their subsequent health risks.

Neil Carmichael, Chairman of the ADG, said: “Dental deserts not only stretch across the east of England, from East Yorkshire, through Lincolnshire and down to Norfolk, but are now emerging in many other ‘red wall’ constituencies that the government wants to ‘top level’. Our fears of an exodus from NHS dentistry are proving to be well founded and the number of NHS dentists working in England is now at its lowest in a decade.

“We welcome the government’s commitment to reform the recruitment and registration of overseas dentists – what must follow is reform of NHS dental contracts and investment in our future national workforce – only when this happens will we have a chance to tackle England’s oral health inequalities.”


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