Conservative Dental plan “too little too late” as 72,309 children not seen by an NHS dentist in Herefordshire and Worcestershire

8 Feb 2024

Worcestershire’s Liberal Democrats have slammed the Government’s new dental plan as figures show tens of thousands of children in Herefordshire and Worcestershire have not been seen by an NHS dentist in 12 months.

Lib Dem research, commissioned from the House of Commons Library, estimates the number of children who weren’t seen by an NHS dentist in the year to June 2023, based on the latest data from the health service.

It shows a staggering 48.5% of children have not been seen by a dentist in Herefordshire and Worcestershire over that  twelve-month period, while  61.3% of local adults had also not been seen by an NHS dentist in the two years to June 2023. That equates to 376,525 people who went without NHS dental care over a 24-month period.

The Government’s new Dental Plan will see modest cash incentives for NHS dentists, mobile dental services and dental teams visiting schools and nurseries. But the claim this means a further 2.5mn appointments across England and Wales is unsupported by any modelling.

The British Dental Association (BDA) has said they struggle to see how the whole package delivers more appointments when most of the funding is drawn from recycling existing budgets.

The  NHS dentistry budget was underspent by a record £400m last year, due to dentists not finding it economic to take on NHS work-new proposals barely address this problem. Indeed recent Department of Health accounts show the NHS dental budget has remained frozen at around £3bn for over a decade, meaning real cuts of £1bn since 2010.

The Lib Dems are calling for a real dental healthcare rescue plan to boost the number of appointments. The Liberal Democrats are also calling for reforms to guarantee access to an NHS dentist for everyone needing urgent and emergency care, ending DIY dentistry and “dental deserts”, and the removal of VAT on children’s toothbrushes and toothpaste.

Commenting Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for West Worcestershire, Dan Boatright-Greene said: 

“The government’s plans are too little too late for local families who have been left waiting in pain struggling to get a dentist appointment.

“It is appalling that so many children in our area are struggling to see an NHS dentist when they need to. We know that if children can’t access dental healthcare it can disrupt their eating, sleeping and learning. 

“Instead of these half-baked reforms, we need a proper rescue package for dental healthcare. That means guaranteeing access to an NHS dentist for everyone needing emergency care, boosting the number of appointments and removing VAT on children’s toothbrushes and toothpaste.”

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