The British Dental Association warns of impending access crisis
The British Dental Association has warned of an impending dental access crisis in the aftermath of prolonged Covid-19 lockdowns and restricted patient numbers.
The BDA suggested that patient numbers have “fallen off a cliff” in England since March, with the majority of practices closed for several weeks. NHS Digital figures for Shropshire show that patient numbers were already down before practices were forced to close due to the Coronavirus crisis. In the 24-month period leading up to the end of March 2020, the number of patients visiting their dentist in the county dropped by 3%. With most clinics closed between the end of March and June, the BDA claims that millions of patients could miss out on dental care.
Across England, figures for dental visits fell by over 4% between the end of March and the beginning of July, but the BDA believes that the impact could be much more profound. NHS statistics show that patient numbers dropped by 1.8 million compared to 2018/2019, but the body is worried that the figures don’t tell the whole story. Urgent appointments were available through a network of emergency hubs set up to offer immediate treatment during the lockdown. However, there is concern about backlogs, due to the fact that routine services continue to be widely unavailable. Most practices are operating at a reduced capacity to allow for social distancing and additional cleaning, and dentists are working to rearrange cancelled and postponed courses of treatment.
The BDA is worried that limiting patient numbers and restricting access to routine services will contribute to “tens of millions” missing out on dental care in the months and years ahead.