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Labour’s Child Health Action Plan aims to tackle dental crisis and NHS backlog

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The plan will cost £109 million a year and will be funded by clamping down on tax dodgers and non-doms

The Labour Party is set to unveil its Child Health Action Plan today, pledging to address the crisis in children’s dentistry and clear the Tory backlog in five years if it forms the next government.

The plan will be announced by Labour leader Keir Starmer on Tuesday during his visit to the North East of England, accompanied by Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting.

The party has pledged to introduce an extra 100,000 urgent dental appointments for children annually, along with supervised toothbrushing for 3-to-5-year-olds in areas most in need.

Citing new figures that revealed 540,000 fewer children saw a dentist last year than in 2018, Labour criticized the Conservatives for the crisis in NHS dentistry.

Based on current trends, there will be five million fewer dentistry appointments over the next five years if the Conservatives win another term, it said.

The party further highlighted that one in six children aged 11 suffers from tooth decay, with 11,000 children of this age group reporting that they feel ashamed to speak because of problems with their oral health.

There are significant disparities in the condition of children’s teeth. For instance, a child growing up in Wolverhampton is five times more likely to have tooth decay than a child in Kensington.

Streeting said: “What a tragic indictment on the state of NHS dentistry under the Conservatives, that children are ashamed to speak because of the state of their teeth.

“Labour will provide an extra 100,000 appointments for children a year and supervised toothbrushing for three-to-five-year-olds to put a smile back on kids’ faces.”

Labour’s dental rescue plan also includes providing substantial incentives to attract dentists to underserved areas and reforming the dental contract to ensure that everyone in need of an NHS dentist can access one.

In addition to plans for extra urgent dental appointments, Labour pledges to provide extra hospital appointments, scans, and operations for children every year, to beat the Tory backlog.

Additionally, Labour pledges to beat the Tory backlog, by providing extra hospital appointments, scans, and operations for children every year under its NHS waiting lists plan.

According to the party, there are currently 364,000 children on NHS waiting lists for paediatric care, with approximately 150,000 waiting for more than 18 weeks.

“Patients should wait no longer than 18 weeks for treatment, but the NHS has missed this target every month since February 2016,” Labour noted.

The party has pledged to clear the backlog of patients waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment within five years if it forms the next government.

Labour’s plan to beat the backlog includes delivering an extra 100,000 NHS appointments for children at evenings and weekends a year, and doubling the number of NHS scanners with new, AI-enabled scanners.

The plan will cost £109 million a year and will be funded by clamping down on tax dodgers and non-doms, the party stated.

Alison Morton, CEO of the Institute of Health Visiting, welcomed the Labour Party’s Child Health Action Plan, stating that “the poor state of children’s health, widening inequalities and spiralling costs of late intervention” demand immediate attention.

“We are therefore delighted to hear that both Sir Keir Starmer and Wes Streeting have personally committed to making child health one of their key priorities. This reform is long overdue. Millions of children are currently left without the support that they need, and families are calling for better healthcare throughout childhood.”

Professor Claire Stevens CBE, spokesperson for the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry, lauded Labour’s continued commitment to children’s oral health.

“The focus on preventative interventions such as targeted supervised toothbrushing in schools, is clinically and ethically the right thing to do.

“We must recognise that, through no fault of their own, some children need greater help to get the oral health start in life that every child deserves,” she said.

Meanwhile, Andy Bell, Chief Executive of Centre for Mental Health, urged all political parties, including Labour, to commit to an ambitious and long-term strategy for mental health, backed by proper funding, ahead of the 2024 General Election.

“This must include investing in a comprehensive system of mental health support for babies, children and young people,” he added.

 

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