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‘Non-van solutions’: the Recovery Plan reaches a new low

You couldn’t make it up. Having promised a fleet of dental vans to ease the access crisis in rural England, the Government has just launched a pre-procurement exercise for ‘non-van solutions’.

Non Van Solution


The document recognises the “limited availability” of both dental vans and the workforce to man them, and asks third parties to explore “other options such as (but not limited to), the provision of non-van solutions, including the use of local facilities for pop-up services.”

It states “we are keen to think creatively on how we can best support this target population.” Creative thought like this seems very unlikely to meet Care Quality Commission standards.

This is just the latest blow for a Recovery Plan that remains ‘unworthy of the title’.

Last month the Secretary of State had to correct the official record after informing parliament that the Plan was funded by £200m in ‘new’ money. In truth, it is entirely funded by recycling underspends in the service’s £3bn budget, which has barely increased in a decade.

Ministers have tried claiming that 500 practices are now taking on new patients as a result of this package. The reality is officials have just changed the definition of ‘access’. Previously practices would answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on whether they were taking new patients. They are now showing if they can take new patients ‘when availability allows’.

Dental vans, which while ideally suited for treating high needs populations like the homeless appear geared towards giving government MPs lines to talk to on the doorstep at election time. Delivering mainstream care this way is simply not efficient, costing 2.5 times as much as high street practice.

Just 3% of dentists in England who responded to our recent poll think the plan will result in their practice seeing more NHS patients. 43% said the plan will actually lead to their practice seeing fewer NHS patients. Only 1% of respondents believe the plan is capable of meeting the government’s stated objective to provide NHS dental care to ‘all who need it’.

“Every MP who boasted to constituents about these vans is going to have to wait on what ‘non-van solutions’ this Government can come up with,” said Eddie Crouch.

“This is pure farce. The Prime Minister pledged to restore NHS dentistry. The reality is a plan with no new money, no ambition, and now there aren’t even any vans.

In a debate on access Ministers have even tried to sidestep the exodus from the workforce since COVID – by citing growth in numbers from 2010…

We will keep busting these myths and making the case for change. As Bolton MP Yasmin Qureshi noted “saving dentistry isn’t rocket science.”

It simply requires what Government has failed to deliver – real reform and fair funding. Nearly 220,000 people have signed our petition, asking the Prime Minister to deliver just that. Join them.