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Schrödinger's Recovery Plan: Minister reprimanded for misleading House on dentistry

The British Dental Association has backed Yasmin Qureshi MP as she exposed Secretary of State Victoria Atkins for misleading the House with inaccurate claims that the Government’s so-called ‘Recovery Plan’ for NHS dentistry is funded by £200m in ‘new’ money.

When launching the NHS Dentistry Recovery Plan exactly six weeks ago Victoria Atkins repeatedly assured the House that the Plan was backed by £200m of new funding. "There is £200 million on top of the £3 billion that we already spend on NHS dentistry in England", she said. 

Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dentistry and Oral Health Yasmin Qureshi MP quoted Atkins in the House this afternoon stating: “She made it very clear, adding: “This is additional money. I have prioritised dentistry across the board, but this is £200 million of additional money—in addition to the £3 billion that we spend in England."

Yesterday Minister for Primary Care Andrea Leadsom MP told the Health and Social Care Committee that the Plan was not, in fact, backed by any additional investment. “This is all coming out of the £3bn that is currently so underspent” she explained.

Senior members from across Government have been dogged by problems while promoting this policy, with Ministers doing photo shoots in entirely private practices, and repeatedly making factually inaccurate statements.

Leadsom also told the Committee that the modelling behind claims on ‘millions’ of new appointments the plan will supposedly generate had “quite a high likelihood of not being reliable.”

The Department of Health later issued a statement saying that “this figure is based on robust modelling which we will share with the committee. The minister simply meant that all modelling has an element of uncertainty.”

The Minister also claimed the model was based on the views of dentists. A new BDA poll shows just 3% think the plan will result in their practice seeing more NHS patients. 43% think it will lead to their practice seeing fewer NHS patients. Just 1 in 100 believe it meets stated objectives to provide NHS dental care to ‘all who need it’.

Officials suggested the additional capacity would be based on recycling record underspends in the NHS dental budget. However, this is set to hit levels of £450m, raising questions why funding amounts to only £200m. The Minister stated she did not “want the underspend to exist anymore.”

Shawn Charlwood, Chair of the British Dental Association’s General Dental Practice Committee said:

“This is Schrödinger's Recovery Plan.

“It’s based on numbers that are both ‘unreliable’ and ‘robust’ at the same time. Funded by both ‘new money’ and ‘recycled budgets’ without any hint of contradiction.

“The way Ministers sold this to the public has become farcical.

“But the results are a tragedy for millions across this country.”