The debating chamber at The Senedd
The debating chamber at The Senedd Credit: Senedd Cymru / Welsh Parliament

Dental services are at risk of catastrophic collapse, with people resorting to “DIY dentistry” and pulling their own teeth with pliers, the Senedd heard.

Peter Fox warned that NHS dental services are seeing rapid decline following the Welsh Government’s introduction of a new contract in 2022.

He told the Senedd: “These contracts don’t work for dentists, nor do they work for patients,” as he highlighted a 60% fall in the number of NHS dental posts compared with 2021.

Echoing concerns raised by the British Dental Association, the Conservative MS said dental services face potential catastrophic collapse due to the contract reforms.

Mr Fox, who represents Monmouth, cautioned that patients are being left with a choice between years’-long waiting lists or paying hundreds of pounds for private care.


He said: “This lack of accessibility has led people to drastic action – from harrowing stories of people pulling out their own teeth with pliers or people being forced to take 200-mile round trips to get dental appointments. Clearly, this is just simply unacceptable in the 21st century.”

Leading a debate about primary care on April 24, Mr Fox warned GPs are also struggling due to a lack of contract funding, which is not uplifted in line with rising costs and pay uplifts.

He told MSs some GPs are having to pay staff and utility bills out of their own pockets, with practices forced to withdraw more and more services.

The Conservative said some constituents face 50-mile round trips and 50-week waits for services in hospitals that were previously carried out routinely and timely in GP practices.

Mr Fox, who led Monmouthshire council for more than a decade before being elected to the Senedd in 2021, urged the Welsh Government to urgently review GP and dental contracts.

‘Extreme pressure’

Eluned Morgan told the chamber the majority of contacts with the NHS are in primary care – with up to one-and-a-half million contacts a month in a population of three million people.

Wales’ health secretary recognised the extreme pressure on practices, saying the contract last year provided a 5% uplift not just to GPs but also staff who work in their surgeries.

She said: “We want to reform the dental contract on a preventative basis, responding to risk and need, and we have introduced up to 300,000 appointments to new dental patients.”

Baroness Morgan, who is married to a GP, stressed the importance of other professionals in the community, such as pharmacists and opticians, to the preventative agenda.

She said most pharmacies in Wales provide a free service for 27 common ailments, helping to reduce pressure on GPs and other parts of the healthcare system.

‘DIY dentistry’

During first minister’s questions on April 23, Siân Gwenllian said many of her constituents are unable to access public dental services – “an entirely unacceptable situation”.

The Plaid Cymru MS for Arfon raised concerns a new dental academy in Bangor closed its books to NHS patients despite promises it would help tackle a lack of public services.

Sam Rowlands, the Conservatives’ new shadow health secretary, said far too many people across north Wales do not have access to an NHS dentist.

He raised comments from Russell Gidney, chair of the Welsh general dental practice committee, warning of a rise in “DIY dentistry” due to a lack of proper access.

Vaughan Gething said the Welsh Government is committed to reforming the dental contract to unlock capacity and access to NHS services is one of the health secretary’s top priorities.