Hardly any dentists think government's plan to fix NHS dentistry will work, survey finds

19 March 2024, 05:59

File photo of a dentist
File photo of a dentist. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Just 3% of dentists think the government's plans to fix UK dentistry will result in them seeing more NHS patients.

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And some 43% of 1,104 dentists surveyed said they thought the government's £200 million plan would cause them to treat fewer NHS patients.

A total of 54% said they thought the plan would make no difference to their NHS patient numbers.

The plan, revealed last months, contained proposals for dentists:

  • To be offered a £20,000 to work in under-served areas
  • To be paid more for NHS work
  • To be driven around in vans to treat people living in remote areas

The plan also envisions the biggest expansion of water fluoridation in England since the 1980s, and a 'Smile for Life' advice programme aimed at new parents, as well as mobile dental teams being deployed to schools.

Read more: Dentists to be paid £20,000 to take on NHS patients in plan to tackle 'dental deserts'

Read more: Police called after hundreds of people queue for six hours to try and register with an NHS dentist

The government announced the funding plan last month
The government announced the funding plan last month. Picture: Getty

But a poll by the British Dental Association (BDA) found that three-quarters (75%) of dentists do not believe that the plan will improve NHS access for new patients. More than nine in 10 (93%) said that the proposals are not suffi

Shawn Charlwood, chair of the British Dental Association's general dental practice committee, who will also give evidence to the committee on Tuesday, said: "Check-ups are hard to come by, but it will prove much harder for Ministers to find a dentist who backs their outlandish claims.

"This profession has seen through the spin. Empty soundbites won't stop queues outside practices, and dodgy statistics won't call time on 'DIY' dentistry.

"Bringing dentistry back into the 21st century requires real commitment, which is frankly in short supply."

'Those old horror stories of Victorian barbershop dentists with people getting savaged will come to fruition' says dentist Paul Woodhouse

Chris McCann, from Healthwatch England, said: "NHS dentistry has been in crisis for some time, with many people unable to access an NHS dentist and not having the means to pay for private care.

"The dental recovery plan is meant to help alleviate the problem patients face by offering more check-ups to those who have not seen a dentist for years.

"We've yet to see any official data on how well the plan is working, but it's concerning to hear that so few dentists appear to have confidence that it will.

"In the short-term, practical steps must be taken to make it as easy as possible for the public to determine which dentists are offering appointments to those who haven't been seen in the last two years. In the longer run, we need more fundamental reform so everyone can access and afford dental care."

Iain Dale caller had to wait 2.5 years to see a dentist

Labour's shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: "After 14 years of Conservative neglect, patients are literally pulling their own teeth out, and tooth decay is the number one reason for six to 10 year-olds going to hospital.

"Today's revelation that the Tories' hastily cobbled together dentistry plan comes with no new funding is what we've come to expect from this shameless government.

"These horror stories of people extracting teeth with pliers and screwdrivers show the real cost of Conservative chaos. Instead of using doors and string to remove teeth people need the chance to show this failed Tory government the door.

"The Conservatives need to move out the way and allow a Labour government to rescue NHS dentistry and get patients seen on time once again."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "Our recovery plan will create 2.5 million more dental appointments this year by offering cash incentives to dentists taking on new NHS patients and golden hellos of up to £20,000 to encourage dentists to work in underserved areas.

"Backed by £200 million in 2024/25, the fully funded plan will support practices to deliver on their obligations and provide more NHS care for patients.

"The government already invests more than £3 billion each year to support NHS dentistry, and we are starting to see progress. Last year, 1.7 million more adults and around 800,000 more children saw an NHS dentist compared to the previous year.

"The Government is also developing further recommendations for dental contract reform to reflect the care needed by different patients."

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