Nuffield Trust response to imminent NHS Dental Recovery Plan

The Dental Plan contains some welcome measures that will pull NHS dentistry back from the brink, but it won’t address more systemic problems, says Nuffield Trust chief executive.

Press release

Published: 07/02/2024

Commenting on the imminent publication of the NHS Dental Recovery Plan, Nuffield Trust Chief Executive Thea Stein said:

“Last year we said that decades of neglect have left NHS dentistry at the most perilous point in its 75-year history. This long-awaited plan contains some welcome measures that will pull it back from the brink, but it won’t address the systemic problems that have led to today’s state of near-terminal decline. It is a much-needed scale and polish when what NHS dentistry needs is root canal treatment.

“With funding not having kept pace with inflation, it is very good to hear that there is some significant new investment planned in improving access to dental care for those who have not seen a dentist for two years or more. Building on a promising pilot in Greater Manchester, this could improve access in the short-term for many people who have been effectively shut out by the current system.

“It is also good to see imaginative ways to bring dentistry to people who can’t travel, such as through mobile clinics, and to enhance preventative measures in schools. These were recommendations we made in our report and are sensible and pragmatic when resources are stretched.

“But the problems that led to our stark warning back in December will not be solved with today’s plan. The new patient premium is time-limited, which risks bringing new patients into a broken NHS dentistry model where the funding and structures disincentivise their long-term treatment. The Government say they will consult on measures to improve the contract, but are reluctant to pursue the kind of full-scale contract reform that many agree is needed. While proposals to use golden hellos to tempt dentists to sign up for the NHS are a welcome effort, the evidence on whether they work is not entirely clear, and they will not address the equally important problem of people leaving NHS dentistry.

“However encouraging, the measures announced today are not going to be anywhere like big enough to restore universal access to NHS dentistry. Doing so would cost billions, so real honesty is needed about what the public can and should expect from NHS dentistry and when they are expected to pay privately for care.”


Notes to editors

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