dentist stock image
Access to dentistry is not where ministers would like it to be, Wales’ health minister has admitted

MSs warned that dental services across Wales are “on their knees” with NHS provision being put at risk by new contracts.

Peter Fox said a practice in his Monmouth constituency has highlighted that thousands of patients are unable to even be considered for recall appointments.

The Conservative MS and former council leader told the Senedd: “Because of this, the practice is now faced with a clawback of £155,000.

“This is not an exception to the rule – this is the rule, due to the lack of long-term thinking.

“Further, dentists now pay for their lab fees personally but for complex lab work, like dentures, the NHS remuneration does not cover this cost, leaving the dentist out of pocket.

“It is no wonder, then, that practices are having to increase private work to carry on providing what NHS work they can.”

Eluned Morgan admitted that access to dentistry is not where ministers would like it to be.

Wales' Health Minister Eluned Morgan
Wales’ Health Minister Eluned Morgan

She said NHS contracts have been developed to focus attention on the most urgent cases, preventative aspects and people who have had difficulty accessing services.

The health minister told the Senedd that NICE guidance suggests that if you have healthy teeth, you don’t need a recall appointment every six months.

“In fact, you can go up to two years without having a recall,” said Baroness Morgan

“That is what NICE is saying … I think it’s really important that we are led by clinicians.

“We recognise that there is only a certain amount of money and we do have to target that, and that’s why we are following that particular approach.”

Baroness Morgan added: “If they are not providing the service that they signed up to, then it’s a responsibility on us as a government to make sure we go and get that money back.”

‘At risk’

John Griffiths, the Labour MS for Newport East, raised similar concerns about the Bridges dental practice in Caldicot.

He said: “I met with the partners there this week and they do feel very strongly that their long-standing commitment as a practice to NHS provision is being put at risk by the new NHS dental services contract.

“They do not feel that they’re able to provide what they consider to be a proper standard of care for existing NHS patients while meeting the requirements for new patients….

“They believe that this view is very widespread among NHS dentists, not just in their area, but across Wales, and they believe that the new NHS dental services contract isn’t working as it was expected to and we will see a reducing level of NHS provision as a result.

“So, there does seem to be a groundswell of opinion from across Wales that’s very, very concerned about the sort of level of NHS provision that we’re likely to see going forward.”

Baroness Morgan refused to be drawn on any specific surgery but she said ministers are in further negotiations about the next iteration of the contract.

She reiterated the focus on urgent cases and those who have difficulty accessing dentistry, saying: “There is a bit of noise in the system, of course, because it does mean change, and when you prioritise one group, then, obviously, a different group is going to be deprioritised. 

“But, you know, we went into this with our eyes open, we are following NICE guidance on this and what we’re doing is changing a model that’s been there for a long time.”


During health questions on Wednesday November 22, Adam Price, the former Plaid Cymru leader, warned that there is a crisis in dental services 

He told MSs that Hayden Dental in Carmarthen has said it will stop its NHS service by the end of the year.

“That follows similar developments to the west in Whitland, to the east in Llandeilo and to the south in Cross Hands and so on and so forth,” said the Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MS.

Baroness Morgan accepted that certain areas of Wales have handed back more contracts than others, with seven in the Hywel Dda area.

The minister said the process of finding new contractors is under way, with four contracts having already been issued.