Dental recovery plan offers ‘dental deserts’ bonuses

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Dear Editor

The policy paper ‘Faster, simpler and fairer: our plan to recover and reform NHS Dentistry’ is, if nothing, an admission that NHS dentistry is in crisis. [1] The new NHS dental recovery plan, while showing glimmers of hope with confirmed prevention policies such as water fluoridation and expanded roles for the dental team, ultimately falls short of expectations. [2]

The increasing cost of living has made dental care less affordable for many, leading to a concerning trend where one in five individuals are now avoiding dental visits due to financial constraints. [3] This marks a significant increase from one in ten just a year ago, [4] highlighting the urgent need for solutions to make dental care more accessible and affordable for all.

Initiatives aimed at incentivising dentists to work in underserved areas, often after referred to as ‘dental deserts’, and the use of mobile dental vans to reach remote communities are commendable efforts. Additionally, expanding prevention programmes for children is crucial for promoting good oral health from a young age.

Ultimately, the goal is for individuals to have easy access to comprehensive dental care, similar to how they would with a local general practitioner, ensuring timely treatment and preventive measures are in place for optimal oral health outcomes.

In Scotland, the dental payment reform was introduced from 1 November 2023. [5] It focuses on prevention rather than reactive treatment, compensating dentists for both aspects. This would be welcomed across the whole of the UK, allowing dentists to operate within a system characterised by high trust and low bureaucracy, where they can exercise clinical discretion in providing a comprehensive package of both oral health promotion and treatment.

References

1. Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England. Our plan to recover and reform NHS dentistry. 7 February 2024. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/our-plan-to-recover-and-refor…
2. Baraniuk C. Dental plan for England is criticised for failing to root out systemic problems. BMJ 2024;384:q341. doi:10.1136/bmj.q341
3. Healthwatch England. Cost of living – a barrier to healthcare for the most vulnerable. 30 May 2023. https://www.healthwatch.co.uk/news/2023-05-30/cost-living-barrier-health…
4. Healthwatch England. Cost of living: People are increasingly avoiding NHS appointments and prescriptions. 9 January 2023. https://www.healthwatch.co.uk/news/2023-01-09/cost-living-people-are-inc…
5. Scottish Government. NHS: PCA(D)(2023)4 – Fees for new Determination I. 27 July 2023. https://www.publications.scot.nhs.uk/files/pca2023-d-04.pdf

No competing Interests: 
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The following competing Interests: 
Electronic Publication Date: 
Monday, February 26, 2024 – 14:06
Workflow State: 
Released
Full Title: 

Dental recovery plan offers ‘dental deserts’ bonuses

Check this box if you would like your letter to appear anonymously:: 
Last Name: 
Yeung
First name and middle initial: 
C Albert
Address: 
Kirklands, Fallside Road, Bothwell G71 8BB
Occupation: 
Consultant in Dental Public Health
Affiliation: 
NHS Lanarkshire
BMJ: Additional Article Info: 
Rapid response

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