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Bupa Dental Care is set to close, sell or merge 85 of its practices affecting 1,200 staff and almost half a million members of the public. Bupa is reported to be one of Britain’s biggest providers of both NHS and …
Bupa Dental Care is set to close, sell or merge 85 of its practices affecting 1,200 staff and almost half a million members of the public. Bupa is reported to be one of Britain’s biggest providers of both NHS and private dental care. Bupa has blamed the decision on ‘systemic’ challenges facing the industry as we see the dentistry crisis in the UK reach an all-time high and has stated that it could not recruit enough dentists amid a nationwide shortage.
The practices were also reportedly struggling to cope with extra running costs that have been caused by inflation.
The decision to close practices comes at a time when millions of people are struggling to see a dentist and practitioners are reporting extensive waiting lists. The number of NHS dentists has reduced dramatically in the last few years due to complaints regarding the NHS contract model. Industry leaders state that the sector is chronically underfunded and under the current contract, it is no longer financially viable to offer NHS procedures because of a lack of Government investment.
Bupa has said it will be handing back the dental contract to the NHS for practices that are to close, which means commissioners can find a new provider to continue treating patients in the area. But with the number of NHS dental practitioners reducing anyway, this may not be straightforward.
A recent British Dental Association (BDA) member survey shows that 50.3% of dentists in England report reducing NHS commitments since the start of the pandemic – with 74% now stating an intention to reduce their NHS work. BDA analysis of government data shows that the unmet need for dentistry has hit 11 million people in 2022. These statistics illustrate what the current state of NHS dentistry looks like and also how it might continue to look in the future.
The BDA has also warned the dental industry is running out of road and has called on the Government to commit to action to reform the system. It is reported that the situation is being investigated by the Commons Health and Social Care Committee and that the Committee’s MPs will take evidence from health chiefs in the next few weeks.
As the NHS dentistry crisis continues to grow, it will be interesting to see whether any other dental providers will have to follow in Bupa’s footsteps or whether the Government will be able to enact positive change. If you have faced an unreasonable delay in receiving dental care, please contact the Dental Negligence Team who will be happy to assist and advise on the prospects of bringing a dental negligence claim.