Go to content

Further delays on recovery plan

It’s never been more needed, but as parliament shuts down again the Government’s recovery plan for England's NHS dentistry remains in the long grass.

This document, pledged in April just minutes before a bruising evidence session at the Health and Social Care Committee, was expected before MPs broke for summer. Now as they head off to their party conferences for the best part of a month, we’re still waiting.

There is real urgency here. The Government’s own data now shows unmet need for dentistry has reached 12 million – more than 1 in 4 of England’s adult population. Just last month official statistics confirmed that – counter to repeat claims from the Prime Minister – the exodus of dentists from the NHS continues, with headcount down 500 on where we were at lockdown.

The result is scenes that have no place in a wealthy 21st century nation, with Greater Manchester the latest place to see patients queuing on camp chairs outside dental practices from 4am.

And now data from the Liberal Democrats shows 4.4 million children did not see a dentist last year.

“Our youngest patients are already paying the price for a crisis made in Westminster” says BDA Chair Eddie Crouch.

“These access problems are the result of political choices. Every political party needs to wake up and offer a plan of action, otherwise this service won’t have a future.”

We need this plan, but it requires real ambition. This could be a last chance to stabilise the service ahead of fundamental reform.

Ministers must show this profession there is a light at the end of the tunnel.