According to statistics released by the Welsh government, almost half of Welsh people have not received NHS dental care in over two years. The figures show that 54.7% of the population, which amounts to 1.7million patients – received dental treatment under the NHS in the two years ending March 31st, 2014. More than a third of children did not visit an NHS dentist, with just under two thirds of under eighteens undergoing dental treatment during the same time period.
Although the figures are damning, the Welsh Government maintains that this is not an accurate representation of the nation’s dental health, as the statistics do not take into account those who have been treated by the Community Dental Service or have chosen to undergo treatment privately.
Opposition political parties suggest that more should be done to increase access to NHS dentists. Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said ‘In 2006, the Welsh Labour Government set a 100% target for everyone in Wales to have access to an NHS dentist. That target has since been quietly dropped. This has led to many Welsh people being unable to access an NHS dentist.’ She added that just one dentist out of 61 practices in Cardiff and one out of 42 in Swansea were accepting new NHS patients.
A spokesperson for the Welsh Government said that according to the Welsh Health Survey ‘more than 70% of people reported seeing a dentist in the last 12 months. There are some 33,000 more patients accessing NHS general dental services that there were three years ago. We are continuing to take action to make sure everyone in Wales, no matter where they live, has access to NHS dental care when they need it.’