Government Announces NHS Dental Recovery Plan

Red Star Wealth
by Red Star Wealth

The government has announced an NHS Dental Recovery Plan, aimed at improving access to dental care across England, but are the measures enough?

Overview of NHS Dental Care in England

The Times Health Commission Report helped shed light on a number of troubling facts regarding England’s dental care:

  • Reports of Ukrainian refugees returning to Ukraine for dental treatment as they’re unable to find treatment in the UK
  • People turning to DIY dentistry, pulling out their own teeth or creating home-made fillings and dentures
  • Tooth decay is the leading cause of hospital admissions for 6-10 year olds
  • In 2021-22, 83,000 people attended A&E for dental problems
  • Around 12 million adults in England haven’t seen an NHS dentist in the last two years

“They [people in England] are becoming so desperate that they are taking matters into their own hands. You’re then seeing the spillover into general medical practice, because people can’t get access to dental practice. And so doctors are becoming overwhelmed, A&E is becoming overwhelmed with dental problems. I think broadly the word ‘crisis’ is overused but we have been in a crisis situation for many years.” – Shawn Charlwood, chairman of the general dental practice committee at the British Dental Association

A 2022 BBC investigation found that 9/10 NHS dental practices across the UK aren’t accepting new patients for treatments. This is creating a huge oral health disparity between those who can afford to seek private dental treatment as an alternative, and those who can’t. Private dental care can be very expensive, and for many people in England, this simply is not a viable alternative.

NHS Dental Recovery Plan: The Rundown

  • Supported by £200 million of government funding
  • NHS dentists will be given a ‘new patient’ payment of £15-£50 to treat patients who haven’t seen an NHS dentist in 2 or more years
  • Around 240 dentists (about 1% of the workforce) will be offered one-off payments of up to £20,000 for working in under-served areas for 3 years
  • ‘Dental vans’ to be used to help reach the most isolated communities
  • NHS work made more attractive to dentists, with the minimum value of activity being raised from £23 to £28
  • Water fluoridation programme to be consulted on to attempt to reduce the number of tooth extractions from decay in the most deprived areas, starting in the North East
  • ‘Smile for Life’ programme will offer advice to parents for baby gums and milk teeth and aims for children to see tooth brushing as a normal part of their daily routine

“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”  – Rishi Sunak


The plan has been criticised by Labour’s shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, for being a “temporary measure.” Streeting has also drawn attention to the £400 million underspend in the NHS dentistry budget last year. Given that the new proposal is only backed by £200 million of funding, there are concerns that it may not be enough to drive the reform we so desperately need.

There was also strong criticism from the British Dental Association…

“Our recent surveys show over 8 in 10 dentists have treated patients who’ve undertaken some form of ‘DIY’ dental work since lockdown. It’s a national disgrace.

Ministers need to take some responsibility. A wealthy 21st Century nation is slipping back to the Victorian era on their watch.

The Government keeps saying it wants everyone to be able to access NHS dentistry. But there’s no sign of a credible plan to make that a reality, and no willingness to break from the failed contract”British Dental Association

“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”Shawn Charlwood

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