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Workforce plan is the latest attempt to fill the NHS' leaky bucket

The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan has committed to a huge increase in the number of dentists, but offers precious little detail on how to halt the exodus from NHS dentistry.

The plan sets out aspirations to expand training places by 40% so that there are over 1,100 places by 2031/32. However, this is set against a backdrop where over half of dentists responding to our surveys say they have cut their NHS commitment since lockdown – and many more state their intention to reduce - or further reduce – their NHS work.

"This workforce plan is government's latest attempt to fill a leaky bucket" warns BDA chair Eddie Crouch.

"Failed contracts and underfunding are fuelling an exodus from this service. There's little point training more dentists who don't want to work in the NHS."

We also have fundamental concerns that the plan is setting out aspirations to tie dental graduates to this failed NHS system, with no tangible plans to deliver needed reform.

The plan states "one approach we will consider with government is to introduce incentives or other measures, such as a tie-in period, that encourage dentists to spend a minimum proportion of their time delivering NHS care in the years following graduation."

"Ministers need to make the NHS a place young dentists would choose to work" Eddie Crouch added. "Not handcuff the next generation to a sinking ship."

The GDC has recently gone on the record stating bringing in more dentists is not a 'magic bullet' that will solve problems fuelled by broken contracts. And with just days to go to the NHS's 75th birthday the pledged 'recovery plan' for NHS dentistry is nowhere to be seen.

The case for meaningful reform has never been clearer. We cannot recruit our way out of a retention crisis.