'This is not the vehicle to deliver the needs of patients' Toothless in England founder criticises new plans to boost dentistry services

Wednesday 7 February 2024

Dentists are to get cash for new patients under plans to boost dentistry across England.

Around a million 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.

The plans, which are expected to boost dental appointments across the country by 2.5 million next year, will also see patients able to view which local dentists are accepting new NHS patients at the touch of a button.

On Monday and Tuesday, hundreds of people were seen queuing in Bristol after an dentist opened up its books for NHS patients.

A video posted on social media on Monday appears to show police community support officers telling patients the queue had “finished” as they urged prospective patients try their luck another day.

Founder for Toothless in England Mark Jones told Talk Today: "There's been a dental crisis for years.

"It's 2024, we have the sixth biggest economy in the world, and we've reduced the population seeking oral health care in one of its biggest cities to queuing up for scraps of treatment thrown out onto the street by a well meaning NHS practice.

"The government is wedded to the belief that the current NHS contract, the GDS contract, is the vehicle that will help deliver the needs of patients, and that just patently isn't correct.

"We, along with many other organisations, including oral health professionals, the Nuffield Trust most recently, have asked for urgent, radical reform."

Dentists will be paid more for their NHS work under the NHS Dental Recovery Plan.

Officials also hope to incentivise 240 dentists to work in communities where there is less access with one-off so-called “golden hello” payments of £20,000 for working in “under-served” areas for up to three years.

And NHS England said that “dental vans” would be rolled out in rural and coastal areas so people in the most isolated communities will still be able to access help.

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Under the plans, set out by NHS England and the Department for Health and Social Care, people will be able to use the NHS app to see which practices in their local area are accepting new patients.

Access to NHS dentistry has been one of the main concerns highlighted to Healthwatch England.

People have told the patient champion organisation that they have struggled to find up-to-date information about practices taking on new NHS patients.

Healthwatch said that as a result patients have lived with ongoing pain and in extreme cases, patients have resorted to “DIY dentistry” such as pulling out their own teeth.

The Government also announced plans to roll out a “Smile for Life” programme to give advice to new and prospective parents.

Ministers will also launch a consultation on a potential water fluoridation programme to help prevent tooth decay.

The dental recovery plan was to be launched on Wednesday but many of the details were accidentally leaked after health officials sent an early version of the dental recovery plan to MPs of all parties on Tuesday afternoon.

But leading dentists said the plan will not be enough to help people struggling to access dental care.