WQ88857 (e) Tabled on 16/08/2023

What action has the Welsh Government to improve access to NHS dentistry in Hywel Dda University Health Board?

Answered by Minister for Health and Social Services | Answered on 25/08/2023

Hywel Dda University Health Board has invested in additional urgent access capacity currently situated in one of the Health Board’s mobile dental units in Carmarthen. The Health Board has been successful in appointing a second dentist to the unit which means services can be provided 5 days a week. This service will eventually become an integral part of the community dental services to be located in the Carmarthen Hwb in Carmarthen Town which is currently under development and due to be completed in spring of 2024.  The Health Board also have plans to increase CDS capacity by commissioning an extra day per week from a dentist and a dental therapist.

We know we need to support access dental services in less urban areas by incentivising dentists to train in the area. To support this HEIW have put together an enhanced offer which aims to encourage future dental trainees to complete their foundation year in dental practices across rural Wales, rather than popular urban areas. In addition to a £5000 salary uplift, dentists taking up the offer will also be provided with enhanced academic and wellbeing support for the duration of the programme. This will help to increase access to NHS care for local people in rural Wales. I am pleased to confirm that 6 out of the 10 places that have currently been awarded are in the Hywel Dda University Health Board area.

I am aware that there have unfortunately been contract terminations; the Margaret Street Practice in Ammanford being one of them. It is always disappointing when a dentist decides to reduce or end their NHS commitment. It is important to highlight that when this happens the funding for the lost provision remains with the Health Board in order for it to replace the level of NHS dental services. A contract for replacement services has been awarded and, following refurbishments, the premises is on track to open on 1st September.

Finally, the Health Board have confirmed that 76% of practices will be staying on the contract reform variation for 2023/24. With the majority of practices continuing with dental contract reform they will be able deliver dental services that are founded on prevention and focussed on providing dental care for those that need it the most, including new patients, building on the 17,000 new patient places offered in 2022/23.  

The unfortunate reality is that there is an access gap for those who want NHS dentistry which will be difficult to bridge in a short space of time. We have plans to address this by reforming the contract so that NHS work is more attractive to the existing dental workforce, and by increasing the numbers of training places across the entire dental team.