First Minister promises to improve access to NHS dental care in Wales

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Mark Drakeford, the First Minister, has promised to improve access to NHS dental care in Wales.

Mr Drakeford has vowed to make dental services a priority following two years of disruptions and delays. As Covid-19 restrictions ease further in Wales, dental practices are expected to be able to increase capacity and eliminate measures, which impacted patient numbers during the pandemic.

Dentistry has been affected right across the UK, with practices running at a reduced capacity since the start of the pandemic in 2020. Surgery closures and prolonged periods of restrictions have created huge backlogs, with millions of patients around the four nations experiencing difficulties getting NHS appointments. There has also been an increase in the number of dentists leaving the profession or switching from NHS to private care.

Following a conversation with the Chief Dental Officer for Wales, Mr Drakeford suggested that remaining Covid checks could soon be banished, which would enable dental practices to offer more appointments. Patients with a history of respiratory problems would still receive additional protection, but restrictions would be lifted for those who are not at greater risk.

Mr Drakeford said that discussions with the Chief Dental Officer had been productive and stressed that the government is working on “very active plans” to boost capacity and “restore” NHS operations.

Health minister, Eluned Morgan, indicated that dental hygienists and therapists could play a more active role in routine dentistry in Wales in the future, with dentists focusing on more complex procedures. The future of dentistry, Ms Morgan suggested, could look different, with hygienists the “first port of call” for patients wanting a check-up.

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