Health Secretary Victoria Atkins outlines denistry plans for country

Louth & Horncastle’s MP has outlined plans to boost dentistry across the country.
NHS dentists will be given a cash bonus for helping areas where getting an appointment are the most difficult. (Picture: Adobe Stock)NHS dentists will be given a cash bonus for helping areas where getting an appointment are the most difficult. (Picture: Adobe Stock)
NHS dentists will be given a cash bonus for helping areas where getting an appointment are the most difficult. (Picture: Adobe Stock)

The government is offering NHS dentists a £20,000 "golden handshake" for working in “under-served” areas of the UK for up to three years. It comes after news that millions of people have not been to a dentist in more than two years.

While dentists will be paid more for their NHS work under the NHS Dental Recovery Plan, and 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.

Secretary of State for Health & Social Care, Victoria Atkins, said that dentistry is a priority for the government.

The NHS plans for dentistry.The NHS plans for dentistry.
The NHS plans for dentistry.

"I know from my experience representing a rural and coastal constituency in Lincolnshire how frustrating it is for people who cannot get a dentist appointment, especially after the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on dentistry,” she said, “We have seen big improvements over the past year, but now we are going much further.

“I’m determined to deliver faster, simpler and fairer access to NHS dentistry for patients – and this plan will help anyone who has not been able to see a dentist in the past two years to do so.

“The long-term decisions we are taking will help ensure that good oral health is available to all, wherever you live and whatever your background.”

The plan will see:

  • Rolling out dental vans to the most in need rural and coastal areas to carry out emergency and routine work.
  • Lifting the minimum value of activity by 22 percent from £23 to £28 to pay NHS dentists more.
  • Incentivising dentists to work in rural or underserved areas with one-off payments of up to £20,000.
  • Paying dentists a bonus of up to £50 for each new patient they take on who haven’t see a dentist for two years.
  • Launching the ‘Smile for Life’ programme to assist new parents on prevention and how to reduce dental decay in children.
  • Increasing the number of dentistry training places by 40% by 2031/32 in the NHS LTP.
  • Expanding the water fluoridation programme subject to consultation.

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.

"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."

Sleaford & North Hykeham MP Dr Caroline Johnson also said that she welcomed the Government’s new NHS Dental Recovery Plan:

“I am pleased that rural areas such as Lincolnshire will be prioritised in these plans and I will continue to work with the Government on delivering improved NHS dental services in the area.”

Wes Streeting, Labour’s shadow health secretary, said: "After 14 years of Conservative neglect, patients are desperately queuing around the block to see a dentist, literally pulling their own teeth out, and tooth decay is the number one reason for six to 10-year-olds being admitted to hospital.

"The Conservatives are only promising to do something about it now there’s an election coming. It will be left to the next Labour government to rescue NHS dentistry and get patients seen on time once again."

Senior dentists have also said that the government's plan will not be enough to help people struggling to access dental care.

Shawn Charlwood, chairman of the British Dental Association’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."