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Posted on 17 May 2024

​As seen earlier this year, the NHS and government are doing a lot to try to improve the provision of dentistry services. New plans unveiled in February provided an anticipated £200m of government funding including ‘new patient’ payments of between £15-£50 to treat around a million new patients who have not seen an NHS dentist in two years or more. The plans revealed 2.5 million additional NHS dental appointments to be delivered for patients over the next 12 months, but this can only be backed up effectively with more dentists. The NHS is incentivising local dental practices with the highest demand to hire new dentists using a new reward scheme - circa 240 dentists will be offered bonus payments of up to £20,000 to work in under-served areas for up to three years after figures revealed the disparity in access across the UK.

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. It’s thought that the ‘golden hello’ incentive will create a desire for dentists to move to and work in underserved areas of the UK, particularly rural and norther Britain, where some have been unable to get treatment for years.

Chief Dental Officer, Dr Jason Wong MBE commented: “Thanks to our dental recovery plan to improve access to vital dental services, many practices are now taking on new patients and we will continue to work with the profession to encourage them to take advantage of our new incentive scheme. We are working to ensure that one and a half million additional dental treatments will be offered to patients over the next year with payments made to dental practices for taking on new patients and incentives for dentists to work in underserved areas”.

Patients in the west-midlands earlier in 2024 had trouble accessing dental care after internal political battles of funding with integrated care board, formerly clinical commissioning groups. Dozens of integrated care boards across the country made decisions in reducing spending on NHS funded dentistry procedures, meaning some treatments wouldn’t be funded on the NHS. This led famously to photos of people queuing into new dental practices which was widely reported on social media. The issue has affected people in the city of Birmingham, with many dental practices simply saying they are not accepting new patients and residents living there face a postcode lottery to find a practice or try and fund their treatment themselves. Research in the Guardian discusses that 82.8% of surgeries are refusing to let adults become new patients, while 71.1% won’t register under-18s. It’s hoped these incentives in the dental recovery plan will help ameliorate some of these problems.

Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said: “Our dental plan is already having an impact and it’s fantastic to see hundreds more practices signing up to treat new patients since we launched our new patient premium. And today we can confirm that our targeted recruitment scheme, which offers a ‘golden hello’ of £20,000 to dentists who agree to work in areas in need, is launching, with guidance going out to dental practices and dentists who may wish to apply for the scheme. I am committed to making access to dentistry faster, simpler and fairer for all those who need it – and these golden hellos will help ensure that patients can access good oral health, wherever they live”.

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