NHS Patients to Provide Cash Incentives for Dentists


The UK government is planning to offer financial incentives to dentists who take on additional NHS patients and deploy teams to schools to provide dental care for children. The plan, which aims to enhance services in England, will see dentists receiving a “bonus” for accepting more NHS patients. Additionally, up to 240 dentists will be given £20,000 to work in areas with limited dental services for three years.

A programme to address dental decay in young children is also part of the plan. The details of this “dental recovery plan” are expected to be revealed by ministers on Wednesday. However, an email containing the plan’s details was mistakenly sent to MPs from all parties earlier and subsequently shared with the BBC.

The email mentions a £200m investment in dentistry, including support for dentists to accept new NHS patients through a bonus scheme. It also outlines a “golden hello” cash incentive for dentists to work in under-served areas, with 240 dentists being offered £20,000 later this year to work in parts of England with the fewest dentists.

As part of the “smile for life” initiative, reception-age children will be encouraged to fight dental decay from an early age, with a specific programme for nurseries. Mobile dental teams will visit schools in areas with limited dental services, providing fluoride varnish treatments to over 165,000 children.

This comes after the Labour party announced their policy of supervised tooth-brushing for three to five-year-olds and offering incentives for new dentists to work in areas with the greatest need.

The state of NHS dentistry has been under scrutiny after hundreds of people queued outside a new dental practice in Bristol to register as NHS patients. A BBC investigation in 2022 found that nine out of 10 NHS dental practices across the UK were not accepting new adult patients for treatment on the NHS.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting and Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Daisy Cooper have both criticized the government’s plan, calling it a response to election pressure and too little too late, respectively. The DHSC has been contacted for comment.

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