The recent closure of the Broadlands Dental Surgery to NHS patients has only worsened the growing problem of accessibility to dental care in my constituency of Bridgend. Since 2020, less than 50% of the Welsh population are accessing dental care within the recommended two-year check-up period. In Cwm Taf Morgannwg, less than 40% of adult patients received dental care in this recommended two-year window.
According to a recent BBC-BDA (British Dental Association) survey, Wales has the least availability of NHS dentists in UK nations with 93% of practices not accepting new adult patients. In Bridgend, despite twelve NHS dentists operating within the Borough, not one has availability to see new patients.
Between July 2021 and June 2022, 16 dental practices across Wales closed. This follows repeated warnings by the Welsh Conservatives that we are heading towards “dental deserts” in Wales. More must be done to ensure Welsh patients can access dental care.
The Welsh Labour Government must match the NHS dentistry spend to that of the other devolved nations. Prior to the pandemic, £47 per head was spent on NHS dentistry in Wales. The Welsh Conservatives, like the BDA, have been clear that “it is time at the very least to bring it in line with investment in Scotland and Northern Ireland” where it is £55 and £56 per head, respectively.
The UK Government has supported Wales throughout the pandemic, securing an additional £8.6 billion for the Welsh Government to fund its COVID response. This has been essential to building back better as we’ve emerged from the pandemic. I had hoped to see some of this funding allocated to our increasingly strained dentistry sector. Whilst I welcome £450,000 being made available by the Welsh Government to dentists, it isn’t a drop in the ocean compared to the dental care crisis we face across Wales–Let alone in my own constituency of Bridgend.
As we face a cost-of-living crisis, it is unacceptable that Welsh patients are left without dental care access. The decrease in dental capacity across Wales has been found to most impact the 48% of the population who can least afford dental care. This has left horror stories of patients removing their own teeth appearing in the press due to a lack of affordable and accessible dental treatment.
Enough is enough. It is time Welsh Labour took responsibility for the lack of dental care capacity in Wales. Rather than wasting £1.1 million this year alone on the Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales vanity project, a fivefold increase on last year, the Welsh Government would do better to invest this money in the lack of dental care capacity harming patients across Wales and use it to instead invest in training for 32 new dentists.