Newcastle dentist workforce being depleted as staff lose faith with NHS

The number of dentists has taken a hit during the pandemic

<p>There has been a drop in the number of dentists (Image: Getty Images)</p>

There has been a drop in the number of dentists (Image: Getty Images)

Unions have warned NHS dentistry is “hanging by a thread” with some patients facing two-year waits for routine check-ups.

Data from NHS England and NHS Wales shows more than 2,500 dentists across the country - up to 8% of the workforce - stopped treating NHS patients last year.

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In the Newcastle and Gateshead CCG, the number of dentists fell by 26 from 326 to 300.

It puts the CCG in the top half of worst affected areas across the UK.

However, looking solely at regions, the North East and Yorkshire’s 5% loss of workforce is the joint best, alongside the South West.

London is the worst affected area with a 10% drop last year.

The British Dental Association (BDA) said unhappiness with the NHS dental contract was a key factor in the drops.

The worst-affected was NHS Portsmouth CCG, which lost 26% of its NHS dentists over 12 months.

Meanwhile, 28 other English CCGs have lost at least 10% of their NHS dentists.

NHS England said patients who needed care the most should be prioritised, and added it had set up 600 urgent dental centres across England.

The BDA’s Shawn Charlwood explained why significant numbers of dentists are leaving the NHS.

“NHS dentistry is hanging by a thread, because without NHS dentists, there will be no NHS dentistry,” said Mr Charlwood.

“It’s a really serious situation and every dentist that is lost or every vacancy for NHS dentistry that remains unfilled affects thousands of patients in terms of care and their ability to access care.

"Every practice struggling to fill vacancies translates into thousands of patients unable to access care.

"Years of failed contracts and underfunding have meant a growing number of dentists no longer see the NHS as a place to build a career.

“The pandemic has upped the ante, and we are now facing down an exodus.

"Ministers have failed to grasp that we can't have NHS dentistry without NHS dentists.

“Rather than punishing colleagues, we need a service that recognises and rewards commitment.”