By Linden Grigg
GOSPORT MP, Dame Caroline Dinenage, has welcomed the launch of the Conservative Government’s £200 million NHS Dental Recovery Plan; which was announced in the House of Commons on Wednesday (February 7) and sets out a package of measures to deliver 2.5 million additional NHS dental appointments across the country in the next twelve months.
It follows a wider concern from voters regarding appointment availability after the Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions of close contact treatment, which meant that forty million fewer courses of treatment were delivered during the years of 2020 to 2022. Voters have reported being unable to book appointments or register for a dentist, alongside the rising costs for treatment.
Mrs Dinenage previously hosted a 2022 roundtable event in Gosport and welcomed Minister for Patient Safety & Primary Care, Maria Caulfield, to discuss improving access to NHS dentistry in the Borough. A number of local dentists and dental care representatives were also in attendance, as well as representatives from the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Local Dental Committee.
The new NHS Dental Recovery Plan was further announced earlier this week and states that 240 dentists will be offered one-off payments of up to £20,000 in the longer term, which the Government hopes can allow them to work in “under-served areas” for up to three years. It is believed that this will help to attract new NHS dentists and improve provision of care in areas with the highest demand.
Ministers are set to introduce a “New Patient Premium Payment” to dentists and incentivise them to treat approximately one million patients who have not seen an NHS dentist in two years or more. In the shorter term a number of dental vans are being launched to help reach more isolated communities, including across rural and costal areas. The scheme is likely to be introduced within weeks, ensuring that patients can benefit almost immediately and get the treatment they need.
The minimum activity value will increase from £23 to £28 (a rise of £5) and high-performing practices will be able to deliver extra work on top of their contracted activity; thus ensuring NHS work is more attractive to dental teams. The Government will further consult on wider reforms to the dental workforce and contracts across 2024, in which they will take “the long-term decisions to ensure that dental services can be there for families for many years to come”.
Expanded prevention care is also being rolled out for younger children to help reduce tooth decay and improve the nation’s oral health through the ‘Smile for Life’ programme. Children at nursery and reception level will be offered vital preventative measures against tooth decay; whilst this could be expanded further to include junior and senior school levels in the future.
The Gosport MP was pleased with the plan and said: “I understand the frustration of people in Gosport when they need to see a dentist but who, since the pandemic, have struggled to get an NHS appointment. In Gosport a third of adults and more than half of the children have accessed NHS dentistry in the last year, but there is still un-met need.”
“I am therefore delighted that the Conservative Government has published its NHS Dental Recovery Plan, creating 2.5 million more NHS dental appointments over the next year – exceeding the pledges made by Labour by over a million appointments.”
These thoughts were echoed by Health & Social Care Secretary, Victoria Atkins MP, who said: “Dentistry is a priority for this government. I know from my experience representing a rural and coastal constituency in Lincolnshire how frustrating it is for people who cannot get a dentist appointment, especially after the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on dentistry. We have seen big improvements over the past year, but now we are going much further.”
She concluded: “I’m determined to deliver faster, simpler, and fairer access to NHS dentistry for patients and this plan will help anyone who has not been able to see a dentist in the past two years to do so. The long term decisions we are taking will help ensure that good oral health is available to all, wherever you live and whatever your background.”
PICTURED: Dame Caroline Dinenage stands with Minister Maria Caulfield and Phil Gowers, Chair of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Local Dental Committee in Gosport on a visit back in June 2022.