As we reported early in January, thousands of patients across the country were finding it increasingly difficult to access dental care with health bosses warning that funding for the dental service on the NHS had been withdrawn. Local news outlets reported that rates for dental appointments on the NHS were expected to be up to 10% higher initially but a recent change by the NHS Integrated Care Boards (ICB) in the West Midlands disclosed that financial pressures in the NHS elsewhere have taken priority. In the end, this could lead to 5,000 patients NOT being treated for dental issues in a year, the same as two full time dentists not working. Since then, we’ve seen lines of patients queueing to enter a new dental practice in Bristol just to try and access NHS care. The NHS has now announced a full recovery plan for dental services in the UK.
Under the new plans with an anticipated £200m of government funding, NHS dentists will be provided with a ‘new patient’ payment of between £15-£50 to treat around a million new patients who have not seen an NHS dentist in two years or more. The release which was published on the 7th February and announced by the NHS and the government unveils a plan whereby up to 2.5 million additional NHS dental appointments will be delivered for patients over the next 12 months, including up to 1.5 million extra treatments being delivered. What’s more, members of the public will be able to see which practices in their local area are accepting new patients on the NHS website and the NHS App. The government has planned a wide marketing campaign to promote the increased availability of appointments, whilst also encouraging anyone who has not been seen by a dentist for the past two years to access treatment. This news come as just this week it was reported there are record numbers of children having rotten teeth removed in surgery in UK hospitals, with many of them experiencing poor dental health because of a lack of services.
The queues, widely publicised in Bristol, are likely to roll in to the 4th consecutive day on Friday 9th February where people in a disadvantaged community get in line to potentially register as an NHS patient at a new dental practice. The practice, St Pauls Dental Practice in Ashley Road, Bristol, opened for in-person registrations on Monday and has been swamped with mass queueing for the service. Dentists running the new practice stated that 1,500 people had enrolled in the first two days but will have to soon turn newcomers away. The government rescue plan comes at a crucial time where dentists in disadvantaged communities can take government relief with a £20,000 bonus to dentists who set up practice in areas with poor access to NHS care.
Commenting on the plan, The 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 £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.”