A NORTH Cornwall MP has welcomed the launch of a new government scheme hoping to improve access to dentistry across the country.  

It has been announced that £200-million in funding has been allocated to the government’s NHS Dental Recovery Plan, as part of its long-term plan to improve access to NHS dentistry and deliver on the Prime Minister’s commitment to cut waiting lists. 

Over the last few years, many of Cornwall’s residents have struggled to see a dentist due to wait times, with some areas reporting waits stretching several years. 

The plan sets out a package of measures to deliver 2.5-million additional NHS dental appointments over the next 12 months, ensuring they are where they needed most, and expanding preventative care for younger children to help reduce tooth decay. 

To help improve access in the short term, new dental vans are being launched to help reach more isolated communities, including in rural and coastal areas. In the longer term, around 240 dentists will be offered one-off payments of up to £20,000 for working in under-served areas for up to three years, helping to attract new NHS dentists and improve provision of care in areas with the highest demand. 

Further measures include introducing a New Patient Premium payment to incentivise dentists to treat around a million new patients who have not seen an NHS dentist in two years or more. The scheme will be introduced within weeks, ensuring that patients can benefit immediately. The minimum value of activity will also increase from £23 to £28 and high-performing practices will also be able to deliver extra work on top of their contracted activity, ensuring that NHS work is more attractive to dental teams. 

As well as this, government has stated that trainee dental places will be expanded by 40 per cent as part of the first ever ‘NHS Long Term Workforce Plan’. 

Expanded prevention care is also being rolled out for younger children to help reduce tooth decay and improve the nation’s oral health. The Smile for Life programme will offer parents-to-be further advice for baby gums and milk teeth with babies and toddlers in nurseries having tooth brushing as part of the daily routine, so that every child in primary school will see tooth brushing as a normal part of their day. 

Commenting on plans, MP for North Cornwall, Scott Mann said: “Everyone should be able to access NHS dentistry quickly and easily, and I understand the frustration of people in North Cornwall when they need to see a dentist but struggle to get an NHS appointment.   

“I am therefore delighted that the Conservative government has published its NHS Dental Recovery Plan, creating 2.5-million more NHS dental appointments over the next year.   

“The conservative government is sticking to the plan to deliver immediate and long-term change to improve access to NHS dentistry. Our ambitious commitments far exceed the pledges made by labour and will ensure that everyone can access the right care and stay healthy for years to come.”  

Health and social care secretary, MP Victoria Atkins, added: “Dentistry is a priority for this government. I know from my experience representing a rural and coastal constituency in Lincolnshire how frustrating it is for people who cannot get a dentist appointment, especially after the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on dentistry. We have seen big improvements over the past year, but now we are going much further.  

“I’m determined to deliver faster, simpler and fairer access to NHS dentistry for patients – and this plan will help anyone who has not been able to see a dentist in the past two years to do so.  

“The long-term decisions we are taking will help ensure that good oral health is available to all, wherever you live and whatever your background.”