The NHS has revealed a Dental Recovery Plan intended to help patients benefit from millions more NHS dental appointments over the next year, with easier and faster access to NHS dental care across England.
The plans are supported by £200 million of government funding, with NHS dentists to 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 years or more.
It is hoped the plans will lead to up to 2.5 million additional NHS dental appointments delivered for patients over the next 12 months, including up to 1.5 million extra treatments being delivered.
The plans also highlight a focus on prevention and good oral health in young children.
A 'Smile For Life' programme will offer parents and parents-to-be advice for baby gums and milk teeth, with the aim that by the time children go to school, every child will see tooth brushing as a normal part of their day.
In order to attract new NHS dentists and improve access to care in areas with high demand, around 240 dentists will be offered one-off payments of up to £20,000 for working in under-served areas for up to three years.
The public will be able to use the NHS website and App to see which practices in their area are accepting new NHS patients.
Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said: “COVID-19 has significantly impacted NHS dental care, and teams across the country are working hard to recover services and meet rising demand.
“Building on the reforms we have already implemented, the health service will now introduce a wide range of practical measures to help make it easier for people to see a dentist, from incentivising dentists to take on new patients to supporting dentists to be part of the NHS in areas where access is challenging.
“Recovering dentistry is a priority for the NHS and this plan is a significant step towards transforming NHS dental services for the better.”
The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said: “NHS dentistry was hit hard by the pandemic and while services are improving – with 23% 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. Backed by £200 million, this new recovery plan will deliver millions more NHS dental appointments and provide easier and faster access to care for people right across the country.”
However, British Dental Association (BDA) leader Shawn Charlwood 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 makes this service fit for the future. The crisis will remain a burning issue in communities across this country until we get real change."
The co-leader of the Green Party, Adrian Ramsay said: "The scenes of people in Bristol queuing up in desperation to secure an NHS appointment and having to be held back by police are truly shocking. The British Dental Association also reports cases of 3-year-olds with dental sepsis, an epidemic of DIY dentistry and the return of scurvy. This indicates just how broken our society is.
“The dental recovery with its paltry £200 million offer will clearly fail to fill the giant hole in NHS dentistry provision. The underlying problem is that dentists are not being paid the full costs of NHS dental treatment."