No York dental practice applied to a £50m fund designed to pay for extra appointments, it was revealed today (Wednesday).
And that shows that the fund was little more than a gimmick that has done nothing to ease the city’s dental crisis, said Healthwatch York.
In its latest report it revealed that less than a third of Yorkshire’s allocation of the £50m NHS funding announced in January was spent.
NHS England said the money would fund “hundreds of thousands more dental appointments to help recovery of services”.
When asked if any of the money was spent in York, the organisation said: “There were no expressions of interest received from eligible and willing practices in York, therefore there were no additional sessions provided.”
The money was only available till March, and the underspend was not carried forward.
As a result, Healthwatch York manager Siân Balsom said: “If we assume Yorkshire and Humber got half the funding for the two regions, then less than a third of it was spent. What we know for certain is that none of it was spent on services for York.
“Realistically, no one can take on new staff, or buy and equip new premises for a two-month funding opportunity. It’s hard not to see this as merely a gimmick, some Billy Flynn-style ‘Razzle Dazzle’.”
‘Not good enough’
Ms Balsom said the city’s dental crisis was causing real misery to residents.
“My team continue to take calls week in, week out, from people desperate to see a dentist. It’s simply not good enough.
“We have been calling for some time now for urgent and radical reform of the NHS dental contract. The current contract is not fit for purpose.”
She said proper reform was needed urgently.
“We want a long-term solution that guarantees access to an NHS dentist for anyone who needs it. It must include a decent income for dentists who support their patients to have good oral health.
“It must recognise that we are already seeing the legacy of the ongoing failure to provide this support – patients with complex oral health needs who require multiple fillings or are missing significant numbers of teeth.
“We call on NHS England to work with dentists and patients to co-create a model for modern NHS dentistry that benefits us all.”
York Central’s Labour MP Rachael Maskell agreed. “The decline in oral healthcare is of serious concern and things are continuing to get worse as York cannot recruit NHS dentists,” she said.
“I am particularly worried about children, who are not getting the support they need, and in older people, poor oral health can lead to malnutrition.
“These are really serious things, and we urgently need the Government and NHS England to work with us on the solutions that are necessary.