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Experts warn £20,000 ‘golden hello’ offer will not solve dentistry crisis

The government and NHS England have launched a ‘dental recovery plan’ which they hope will boost dental appointments

Zoe Grunewald,Ella Pickover
Wednesday 07 February 2024 11:45 GMT
Labour MP Ashley Dalton said it was easier to get Taylor Swift tickets then it was to get a dentist appointment in Britain

The chairman of the British Dental Association’s General Dental Practice Committee has warned the government’s new dental recovery plan “won’t halt the exodus from the workforce or offer hope to millions struggling to access care”.

Dentists will be offered a “golden hello” payment of up to £20,000 to address the shortage of dentist appointments in the UK.

The plans, which the government hopes will boost dental appointments across the country by 2.5 million next year, will also see patients able to view which local dentists are accepting new NHS patients at the touch of a button.

But Shawn Charlwood has warned that “nothing here meets Government’s stated ambitions, or makes this service fit for the future”.

He added: “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.”

The plans come after hundreds of people were seen queuing in Bristol after an dentist opened up its books for NHS patients earlier this week.

Under the NHS Dental Recovery Plan, dentists are expected to be paid more for their NHS work and dental vans would be rolled out in rural and coastal areas so people in the most isolated communities will still be able to access help.

Dentists will also be offered cash for new patients under plans to boost dentistry across England. Around a million people who have not seen a dentist for two or more years are expected to benefit as officials offer a “new patient payment” of £15 to £50.

This morning, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said that those images “will resonate with millions of people across the country who are in exactly the same position after 14 years of Conservative government”.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has criticised the government for not going far enough in reforming dentistry (PA Archive)

Access to NHS dentistry has been one of the main concerns highlighted to Healthwatch England.

People have told the patient champion organisation that they have struggled to find up-to-date information about practices taking on new NHS patients.

Healthwatch said that as a result patients have lived with ongoing pain and in extreme cases, patients have resorted to DIY dentistry such as pulling out their own teeth.

The dental recovery plan was to be launched on Wednesday but many of the details were accidentally leaked after health officials sent an early version of the dental recovery plan to MPs of all parties on Tuesday afternoon.

The shadow health secretary has criticised the government for “only doing something about it now an election is coming” and that it is “contract reform that is really needed”.

He told the BBC that should Labour win the general election, he would meet with British Dental Association “the following Monday to start the process of contract reform, because I think it’s that urgent.”

He also said that although the government’s plans will go “someway to plugging the shortfall”, only contract reform can will allow the government to recruit and retrain the NHS dentists we need.

“This would be a week one priority for me if I’m the next health secretary,” he added.

Rishi Sunak’s has pledged to improve the UK’s dental service (PA Archive)

Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said: “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.”

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 £200m, 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.”

Louise Ansari, chief executive at Healthwatch England, added: “Across England, we have seen major access issues in NHS dentistry. The dentistry recovery plan is a good start in addressing these serious problems.

“However, in the long run more radical solutions are needed to get NHS dentistry back on track.”

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