The British Dental Association has said Government must wake up to the crisis in NHS dentistry, following damning new analysis from the HSJ showing nearly a third of local dental budgets are going unspent in some areas of England.

Lincolnshire and Hampshire Integrated Care Board are on course to underspend their dental budgets by 30% in 2023-24. Norfolk and Waveney are heading for 27%, Somerset 25% and Herefordshire and Worcestershire 17%.

There is again expected to be a substantial underspend against the national dental contract. The new data suggests this is forecast to be around £350m, representing around 10% of the budget. Underspends do not reflect any lack of demand for NHS dentistry – but are the result of struggling practices unable to hit their punitive targets.

Practices in the same high street receive different levels of payment, and the BDA stress that underspends are highest in areas where Unit of Dental Activity (UDA) rates are lowest. The BDA dubbed the Government’s recent ‘Recovery Plan’ for NHS dentistry as “unworthy of the title”, with a higher UDA rate benefiting just 1 in 10 practices.

Fundamentally the BDA is seeking a break from the discredited contract fuelling these underspends and the wider crisis in the service. The Government has refused to budget.

Shawn Charlwood, Chair of the British Dental Association’s General Dental Practice Committee said: “We’re seeing the results of a postcode lottery designed in Westminster.

“Better funding supports better access for millions. The Government knows this but has set a new minimum rate that will only benefit one in ten practices. 

“But we need more than tinkering with a broken system. Solving this access crisis requires real reform and fair funding.”

Freedom of Information requests by the Health Service Journal