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Dental recovery plan: Health minister’s ‘high likelihood’ remark sparks criticism


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Dentists have described the plan as “dishonest”, “inadequate”, “rubbish” and “a joke”.

The government’s 200 million dental recovery plan has come under fierce criticism from the opposition party after health minister Dame Andrea Leadsom admitted that there is a “high likelihood” that it will not deliver 2.5 million dental appointments.

Published last month, the plan is aimed at ensuring easier and faster access to NHS dental care across England, with up to 1.5 million extra treatments expected to be delivered over the next 12 months. Various new measures were set out to attract new dentists, including increasing dental training places by up to 40 per cent by 2032, as part of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan.

On Tuesday, Leadsom told MPs on the Health and Social Care Committee that the figure was based on NHS modelling of a “complicated set of factors” and there is “quite a high likelihood of not being reliable as is the case with all modelling.”

Preeti Kaur Gill MP, shadow minister for primary care and public health, expressed shock over the admission by the public health minister that there is uncertainty regarding the plan’s ability to deliver on its promises, which she said: “shows the Conservatives are out of ideas and out of time.”

“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 young children are admitted to hospital.”

Gill highlighted how the Labour plans to rescue NHS dentistry and reform it for the long run. She said: “We will deliver 700,000 additional urgent appointments a year; introduce a targeted national supervised toothbrushing scheme for 3-5-year-olds; and we will get straight to work on reforming the outdated NHS dental contract.”

A recent poll conducted by the British Dental Association (BMA) has also raised concerns about the plan’s efficacy.

The poll found that 75 per cent of dentists do not believe the plan will enhance NHS access for new patients. Furthermore, a striking 93 per cent of respondents expressed doubts about the plan’s ambition, suggesting that it may not adequately address the challenges facing NHS dentistry.

This coincides with the public health minister’s statement about the shortfall of the plan which initially was set to offer “‘golden hellos’ worth £20,000 over 3 years for those willing to go and work in underserved areas.

Shawn Charlwood, chair of the BDA’s general dental practice committee, who also gave evidence to the committee, said that the dental recovery plan offers nothing “to bring this service back from the brink”.

He told MPs that dentists have expressed deep disappointment and resentment towards the plan, which they have described as “too little too late”, “not fit for purpose”, “dishonest”, “inadequate”, “rubbish” and “a joke”.



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