NHS Dental Recovery Plan officially unveiled


  Posted by: Dental Design      7th February 2024

Following early leaks to the press, NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care have released the NHS Dental Recovery Plan.

Victoria Atkins, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, explains that the plan has three components:

  1. In 2024, we will significantly expand access so that everyone who needs to see a dentist will be able to. This will begin with measures to ensure those who have been unable to access care in the past 2 years will be able to do so – by offering a significant incentive to dentists to deliver this valuable NHS care. We are introducing mobile dental vans to take dentists and surgeries to isolated under-served communities.
  2. We will launch ‘Smile for Life’ – a major new focus on prevention and good oral health in young children, to be delivered via nurseries and other settings providing Start for Life services, and promoted by Family Hubs. We will also introduce dental outreach to primary schools in under-served areas, and take forward a consultation on expanding fluoridation of water to the north-east of England – a highly effective public health measure.
  3. We will ramp up the level of dental provision in the medium and longer term by supporting and developing the whole dental workforce, increasing workforce capacity as we have committed to do in the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, reducing bureaucracy and setting the trajectory for longer-term reforms of the NHS dental contract.

“The publication of this recovery plan is a significant step on the journey to improve and transform access to NHS dentistry and deliver care that meets the diverse oral health needs of people across England,” says Jason Wong, Chief Dental Officer, England (interim). “The NHS dental service is an essential cradle-to-grave prevention service. The government’s launch of Smile for Life and the focus on early years is welcome, particularly for England’s most deprived communities. The consultation on expanding water fluoridation in some parts of England is an opportunity to improve the oral health of communities for generations to come.

“Offering dental teams a new patient premium to treat patients who’ve not seen an NHS dentist in over 2 years will help more patients access NHS dental care. Changes such as uplifting the minimum unit of dental activity (UDA) value to £28 will make NHS dentistry provision more attractive and the service more sustainable. More importantly, it will make the NHS dental service fairer.

“Growing the workforce so that more patients can access NHS dental care is critical in helping us improve and expand services. We will support government and the General Dental Council (GDC) in the introduction of provisional registration and making it easier for international graduates to work in England while maintaining our high standards. I have always been a strong advocate of the use of skill mix and look forward to further developing this in the provision of NHS care, and we will support the implementation of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan.”

Andrea Leadsom, Minister for Public Health, Start for Life and Primary Care, adds: “This recovery plan addresses the urgent need to boost access, and we aim to make sure everyone needing NHS dentistry will be able to access it. Not only that, but we are building capacity for the long term, supporting our excellent dental staff to work at the top of their training, and encouraging more hard-working dentists to those areas of England that are currently under-served.”

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.”

Dental Care Professionals

The recovery plan also includes steps to improve access for patients immediately, suggesting changes so more dental therapists, hygienists, dental nurses and dentists can treat further NHS patients. 

As outlined: ‘Dental care in England could not function without the vital contribution of its dental care professionals, including dental therapists, hygienists and nurses. As set out in the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, we will expand dental therapy and dental hygiene undergraduate training places by 28% by 2028 to 2029, and expand training places by 40% from current levels to over 500 places by 2031 to 2032.

‘Dental therapists’ scope of practice means that they can deliver much of the routine care that dentists provide so more therapists means more care for NHS patients. In addition to dental therapists and hygienists, we will also encourage greater numbers of dental nurses and clinical dental technicians into relevant education and training programmes.’

Read the NHS England announcement here.

Click here to view the full policy paper.

For further reactions from across British Dentistry, you can find our rolling coverage here.

No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.