Cash incentives to be offered in government plan to stop 'Britain’s dental crisis'

Downing Street has announced new cash incentives to dentists to take on more NHS patients, ITV News Health Correspondent Rebecca Barry reports

The government hopes to make access to dental care "faster and fairer", by offering cash incentives to dentists in a leaked plan.

Ministers hope that the money will provide 1.5 million new treatments for people in need of NHS dental care. In 2023, the number of dentists offering NHS dental care fell by 121. 

Last month, The Nuffield Trust described the NHS's dental service as at its "most perilous point in its 75-year history", blaming a lack of funding. 

The trust also cited inequalities in accessing the service, revealing how rural communities felt under served.

A new dental van service will be introduced for coastal and rural communities to try and tackle this.

Similar cash incentives will also be offered to help communities with poor access to NHS dental care.

The Dental Recovery Plan will offer up to 240 dentists £20,000 to work for three years in under-served areas "where recruitment and retention of dentists is difficult".

In Bristol, people have been queuing on the street for the second day running trying to secure a place at a newly-opened NHS practice. 

Eddie Crouch, Chair of the British Dental Association (BDA) said that it was "completely shocking" that people had to queue on the streets in order to get NHS dental access.

"We've seen a decade of neglect with the NHS dental service. We believe it is one area of the NHS which has seen a net reduction of around £1 billion than ten years ago," Crouch said.

"It highlights the problems that are developing across the country, Bristol is not isolated with a problem of access."

Hundreds queue to get a place at the newly opened St Paul's dental practice in Bristol. Credit: PA

The BDA also say that claims that the reforms would generate "millions" of new appointments appeared to lack credibility.

"None of the modelling supporting these claims has been published," a spokesperson said.

NHS England figures show that in 2023, 54% of children in England had been seen by a dentist in the last twelve months. For adults, that figure was 40%. 

The government say that 800,000 more children received NHS dental care last year. 

Mobile dental teams will also be sent to schools in under-served areas to provide advice and treatments to more than 165,000 children.

The government's 'Dental Recovery Plan' is expected to see an investment of £200 million to ensure "fast and fair" access to a dentist. 

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: "After 14 years of Conservative neglect, patients are desperately queuing around the block to see a dentist, literally pulling their own teeth out, and tooth decay is the number one reason for six to 10-year-olds being admitted to hospital.

"The Conservatives are only promising to do something about it now there’s an election coming. It will be left to the next Labour government to rescue NHS dentistry and get patients seen on time once again."