NHS dentists

Labour announces NHS dentistry reforms

The Labour Party has pledged to “rescue” dentistry and deliver an additional 700,000 appointments, as part of its mission to build an NHS fit for the future.

Labour has also set a target to reform the NHS dental contract and introduce measures to incentivise new dentists to work in the areas with the greatest need.

Supervised toothbrushing would also be implemented in schools for those aged three-to-five – this would be aimed at the regions with the highest childhood tooth decay.

This would all be accompanied with a focus shift to prevention, in a bid to ensure everyone who needs NHS dentistry can access it.

Labour say more than 40,000 children went to hospital to have teeth removed during 2021 and 2022, with tooth decay being the most common reason for hospital admissions in children between six and 10-years-old.

“People are finding it impossible to get an NHS dentist when they need one, with appalling consequences,” said Labour leader, Keir Starmer. “Horror stories of DIY dentistry are too frequent.”

“My Labour government will not stand for millions of people being denied basic healthcare.”

The Labour Party has indicated the plans will cost £111m per year overall and will be funded by abolishing the non-dom tax status.

Responding to the announcement, Sarah Walter, who is the director of the NHS Confederation’s ICS network, claimed health leaders will “support” the nature of the plans.

Walter said: “Integrated care systems took on responsibility for commissioning dental services across the country six months ago yet the current contract arrangements they are required to follow severely limit what they can do to improve the quality and breadth of dental care available to their local communities.

“More dental capacity is there than these integrated care systems are allowed to tap into for NHS-funded care, which is deeply frustrating especially as the impact is often then seen in patients ending up in hospital needing potentially avoidable tooth extractions.”

She concluded: “We call on all political parties to commit to the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan’s target of expanding dentistry training places by 40% by 2031.”

Image credit: iStock

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NHE May/June 2024

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