The NHS recently unveiled its Dental Recovery Plan, a comprehensive strategy aimed at addressing the longstanding issues plaguing the NHS dental service. This initiative, backed by a £200 million investment, promises to revolutionise access to dental care across England, with a particular focus on enhancing services in rural areas and for underserved communities.
At the heart of the plan is the launch of the "Smile for Life" programme, designed to improve oral health throughout the life course, with special attention on young children. This involves supporting Family Hubs and early years settings to promote good oral hygiene and deploying mobile dental teams to schools in rural and under-served areas to deliver preventative treatments to over 165,000 children.
Additionally, the plan outlines measures to make access to dental care faster and fairer, including rolling out dental vans to rural and coastal communities and introducing a new patient payment scheme to increase access for new patients.
Andrew Lewer, the MP for Northampton South, raised concerns at Prime Minister's Questions last week about the specifics of the plan. He emphasised the need for detailed attention to how these initiatives would impact rural areas. The introduction of dental vans is a significant component of the strategy, aimed at extending dental care to the most isolated communities, addressing the issue of "dental deserts" where access to dental services has been historically limited.
Dental professionals have responded positively to the plan's aims to reduce tooth decay and improve oral health, especially among children. The Royal College of Surgeons of England welcomed the introduction of the "Smile for Life" programme and the efforts to make NHS dental work more attractive to dental teams. However, there's an acknowledgment that it will take time to see the full benefits of these initiatives.
Kerry Booth, Chief Executive of the Rural Services Network:
You can read more about the Dental Recovery Plan here.
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