Civil society groups and health rights activists in England have intensified their campaign demanding better access to National Health Service (NHS) dentistry. On October 19, Yvette Cooper, an MP from the Labor Party, demanded that the British government take urgent action amid the growing waiting list for NHS dental care. Last week, hundreds of dental campaigners under the leadership of campaign group ‘Toothless in Suffolk’ took to the streets of the city, demanding better access to NHS dentistry. Eddie Crouch, chair of the British Dental Association (BDA), attended the rally in Suffolk.
The continuous under-funding of the National Health Service (NHS) and COVID-19 pandemic has pushed its various services, including dentistry, to the brink. Morning Star reported that the COVID-19 crisis has forced many dental patients to pay for private appointments while others face two-year waits for appointments. Health organizations have warned that children are struggling to access dental care and risk being left in pain as dentists grapple with a massive treatment backlog.
Healthwatch England chairman Robert Francis said the coronavirus pandemic has “exacerbated the human impact of years of structural issues in NHS dentistry and is now pushing it to crisis point. Ministers must provide vital investment in services that help keep us all healthy and ensure we build back better for current and future generations.”
While addressing the UK parliament, Yvette Cooper stated, “NHS dentistry is facing a total capacity crisis. There is a huge backlog of urgent care and treatment and that’s leaving many dentists overwhelmed. Patients in towns right across the country are now unable to get routine check ups. That is making the urgent care crisis worse and creating a vicious spiral.”
Meanwhile, the Conservative Party-led UK government is applying pressure for the passing of the Health and Care Bill 2021-2022. This has been termed by progressive sections as a ‘NHS Corporate Takeover Bill.’ It aims at reorganizing the NHS and introducing integrated care by bringing hospitals, general practice (GP) and social care closer together, with a role by private providers and companies. Through the bill, the government wants to promote the formal collaboration of private entities, which already have a significant stake in the NHS. Progressive sections across the UK, including the trade unions and health rights activists, have accused the Tory government of using the COVID-19 emergency to privatize key services of the NHS.