Ian Mills, Dean of the Faculty of General Dental Practice (UK), has responded to the recently-published NHS Long Term Plan.
Speaking to BDJ In Practice, he said:
“While consideration of dentistry in the new plan is scant, we are nonetheless pleased to see the laudable commitments to ensure that children with learning disabilities can access dental services, and that individuals in care homes are supported to have good oral health - this is something for which FGDP has been campaigning for some time.
“The public are understandably concerned about provision and waiting times for cancer, mental health and other under-resourced services, so it should be no surprise that the government’s priorities for such a high profile launch reflect these concerns. As dental care professionals, we know how important oral health is too, but we also know that the separation of general dentistry from other NHS health services reinforces a separation in people’s minds between oral health and general health – and unfortunately, but entirely predictably, the document reflects this view of the world.
“‘Putting the mouth back in the body’ has been on the agenda for a while, and rightly so – but tellingly, it’s only an agenda in dentistry. While realistically we must expect other healthcare professions to lag well behind our own understanding of the associations between oral health and wider health, the good news is that as the bounds of our knowledge are expanding rapidly, these links will over time become more universally understood across healthcare.
“In the interests of patients, FGDP(UK) would like to see contract reform which rewards a preventative approach. While I am not convinced that popular concern over NHS dentistry is yet at a level to force the political agenda, we should see opportunity as a profession in the Secretary of State’s focus on preventative and primary care. The Public Health Minister has already suggested that we may see progress towards a more prevention-based contract as a result, which is grounds at least for hope.
“The proposal for more doctors to train as generalists rather than specialising in a specific area of medicine also caught my eye, and I await the much-delayed workforce strategy with interest to see if it envisages similar changes across the dental profession.”