The NHS has announced a new plan to ensure easier and faster access to NHS dental care across England.
However, the plans have been met with scepticism from experts who say that the Prime Minister’s ‘recovery plan’ will not do enough to incentivise dentists to take on more NHS patients.
Under the plans, supported by £200m of government funding, NHS dentists will be given a ‘new patient’ payment of between £15-£50 (depending on treatment need) to treat around a million new patients who have not seen an NHS dentist in two or more years.
The plan could see up to 2.5 million more NHS dental appointments delivered for patients over the next 12 months, including up to 1.5 million extra treatments being delivered.
The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said: “NHS dentistry was hit hard by the pandemic and while services are improving – with 23 per cent more treatments delivered last year compared to the previous year – we know that for too many people, accessing a dentist isn’t as easy as it should be.
“That’s why we’re taking action today to boost the number of NHS dentists, help cut waiting lists and put NHS dentistry on a sustainable footing for the long-term.
To attract new NHS dentists and improve access to care in areas with the highest demand, around 240 dentists will be offered one-time payments of up to £20,000 for working in under-served areas for up to three years.
NHS work will also be made more attractive to dental teams with the minimum value of activity increasing to £28, from £23.
However, the British Dental Association (BDA) said that the £200m pledged by the government was less than half of the underspends in the budget expected in 2024, leaving no new money for the new patient premium.
Shawn Charlwood, the chair of the BDA’s general dental practice committee, said: “This ‘recovery plan’ is not worthy of the title.
“It won’t halt the exodus from the workforce or offer hope to millions struggling to access care. Nothing here meets government’s stated ambitions, or makes this service fit for the future.
“Ministers wanted to stop dentistry becoming an election issue. By rearranging the deckchairs they’ve achieved the exact opposite.
“The crisis will remain a burning issue in communities across this country until we get real change.”
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