Hundreds of thousands of dental patients in England will be offered weekend and evening appointments as part of NHS plans to tackle the backlog exacerbated by the pandemic.
More than 350,000 additional dental appointments are to be made available in February and March, NHS England has said, with a new £50million funding pot aimed at fueling a ‘treatment blitz’ in dentistry.
However, senior dentistry sources said the money was a ‘drop in the ocean’, with tens of millions of NHS appointments canceled as a result of Covid-19 and the resulting backlog. result should take years to resolve.
Some also expressed doubts about whether there would be enough staff to offer the extra appointments, as hundreds of dentists have left the profession over the past year amid warnings that NHS dentistry is increasingly “hanging by a thread”.
Millions of patients have struggled to access dental care since 2019. Some have spent weeks or months in pain, and others thought they had no choice but to practice “dentistry”. artisanal” while awaiting treatment, or felt compelled to “withdraw in private”. ”.
As part of new plans to tackle the backlog, NHS England said dentists involved in the scheme would be ‘paid over a third on top of their normal session fees’ for providing care outside of their normal hours.
Dentists said this could involve providing appointments until 10 p.m. on weeknights and offered time slots on Saturdays and Sundays, children and people with learning disabilities, autism or serious mental health issues being prioritized.
Chief Dental Officer for England, Sara Hurley, said: ‘Dental services are an essential part of the NHS, providing oral care to all age groups, and that is why we have taken this step. step to strengthen NHS dental services.
“The NHS is now bringing key services like dentistry back to pre-pandemic levels – pumping an extra £50million into routine services will help provide checkups and treatment for hundreds and thousands of people.”
Primary Care Minister Maria Caulfield said the new funding would “urgently give more people access to lifesaving dental care when they need it”.
However, Shawn Charlwood, chairman of the British Dental Association’s General Dental Practice Committee, said the extra money “must only be the start if we are to rebuild a service that millions of people depend on”.
He added: “After a decade of cuts, a cash-strapped service risks being offered money that cannot be spent. Struggling practices are running against the clock and many will struggle to find capacity before April for this investment to make a difference.