NHS turns 70; what does the future hold?
On 5th July 2018 we wished the NHS a happy 70th birthday. However, rather than rejoicing many are concerned at what can be done to save an NHS clearly in trouble.
In March 2018 the BDA criticised the increase in NHS dental charges, estimating ‘patients will be contributing a full third of England’s NHS dental budget by 2020’. The increase also meant that 11,000 patients choose to see their GPs for dental treatment, presumably to avoid these charges. The BDA estimated this cost the NHS in the region of £26m a year, negating any savings made by the increased cost for the patient.
In June 2018 Theresa May pledged to give the NHS a 70th ‘birthday present’; an additional £20bn a year in funding. It is yet to be seen where the money will come from to fund this increase, with May hinting that there could be an increase in taxes.
However, this news was shortly followed by the NHS announcing it had decided to cut ‘ineffective’ treatments, such as tonsil removal, breast reductions and snoring surgery in order to save the NHS an estimated £20m a year. Will this really be enough to keep the NHS afloat?
One thing is for sure, with an ever growing and aging population more money will be needed for basic and emergency care, let alone the more complex procedures the NHS offers.
New Secretary of Health
Many health care professionals rejoiced at hearing Jeremy Hunt was no longer Secretary of Health following his promotion to Foreign Secretary. Hunt is to be replaced by Matt Hancock, who was appointed Cultural Secretary six months previously.
Hancock immediately pledged to help ‘fed up’ NHS staff by tackling bullying and providing more flexible hours.
However, shortly after his appointment news broke that Hancock had received donations from the chair of an anti-NHS think tank. Since becoming an MP in 2010 Hancock has received regular donations of between £2,000 and £4,000 from Neil Record, a Conservative Party donor.
It is still very early days and only time will tell if Hancock can make any meaningful improvements to the NHS.
NHS Dental Contracts
NHS dental contracts reform has been a slow and drawn out process.
In February 2018 the Department of Health called for practices to take part in the fourth wave of NHS prototypes, following a further two year extension of the prototype regulations.
Changes have been made to the NHS Orthodontic procurement process. However, the BDA had serious concerns about this process and launched a legal challenge. As a result current contracts have been extended to March 2019.
Year on year NHS dentists have seen a reduction in their pay, which will undoubtedly result in more dentists turning private, potentially resulting in more strain on GPs and hospitals having to deal with emergency dental treatment.
The NHS is a great British institute and unless something is done to turn it around soon it could be lost forever.
The appointment of a new Health Secretary and a cash injection does bring some hope for the future, but the main focus is unlikely to be on NHS dentistry. There is not going to be a sea change in the current Government’s policy of austerity and the increased privatisation of health services in the future, whatever the talk of birthday bonuses may be. So whilst there may be a reprieve this year, the future remains uncertain for the NHS dentist.
Laura Pearce, Senior Solicitor