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Funding pledge leaves unanswered questions

The Prime Minister has described today's £36 billion boost for frontline services as the "biggest catch-up programme in the NHS's history" yet there is no clarity that dentistry will see a penny of new investment.

The change means:

  • A new Health and Social Care Levy on working adults, alongside an equivalent rise in dividend tax, is expected to raise £12 billion per year
  • Overall NHS capacity will increase to 110% of planned activity levels by 2023/24, meaning more appointments, treatments, and operations.

We are urgently seeking clarity on what this will mean for dentistry.

The backlogs we face are unprecedented. Over 30 million appointments have been lost in England since the first lockdown, with practices continuing to operate at a fraction of their former capacity to meet infection control restrictions.

England remains the only UK nation not to commit to capital funding to improve ventilation in practices to increase patient numbers.

There are also real questions whether colleagues in Community and Hospital Dental Services – many of whom faced yearlong backlogs even before the seismic disruption to elective surgery – will benefit.

High street dentistry was the only part of the NHS that went into the pandemic operating on a lower cash budget than it did a decade ago. Government contributions to the service fell by over a third in the same period. Dentistry's recovery will hinge on fair investment.