The Government has announced a recovery plan to tackle health inequalities in NHS dentistry that was ‘hit hard by the pandemic’. A £200m budget has been promised which the Government claims will cover costs for NHS patients who have not visited a dentist for two years. The Health and Social Care Secretary said, ‘Dentistry is a priority for this government. We have seen big improvements over the past year, but now we are going much further.’
The NHS Dental Recovery Plan consists of a £200m budget aiming to cover £20,000 one-off payments to 240 dentists working in under-served areas and an extra £15-£50 for those seeing patients who have not visited a dentist for two years. The measures also include dental team visits to schools and nurseries and mobile dental services in rural and coastal areas with poor dental coverage.
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‘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,’ said Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak. ‘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.’
The British Dental Association claims that the plan does not tackle the UK’s widening oral health inequalities and has accused the Government as ‘rearranging the deckchairs’ to stop dentistry becoming an election issue. The BDA’s General Dental Practice Committee chair, Mr Shawn Charlwood, added that the recovery plan ‘won’t halt the exodus from the workforce or offer hope to millions struggling to access care.’
A recent Health Commission from The Times revealed many living in ‘dental deserts’ are resorting to ‘DIY’ dentistry. The DSA has backed these findings, adding that around 8 in 10 dentists have treated patients who’ve undertaken ‘DIY’ dental work since lockdown. The association has advocated for more funding to help tackle the increase in complex dental cases since the pandemic. However, they claim the new recovery plan is ‘unworthy of the title’ as it doesn’t offer enough new funding. Mr Charlwood said, ‘The crisis will remain a burning issue in communities across this country until we get real change.’