NHS Confederation responds to Labour's rescue plan for dentistry

Sarah Walter, director of the NHS Confederation’s ICS network, responds to Labour's proposals for dentistry

6 October 2023

Responding to the Labour Party's proposed rescue plan for dentistry, Sarah Walter, director of the NHS Confederation’s ICS network said: 

“Health leaders will support Labour’s promise to tackle the dental care crisis in England, which is leading to many people struggling to register with practices, tooth decay increasing nationally including in children, and dentists feeling disincentivised from taking on more NHS-funded work.

“Taking a public health approach to dentistry by supporting more children to look after their teeth will help to prevent bad dental health and reduce pressure on services.

“Integrated care systems took on responsibility for commissioning dental services across the country six months ago yet the current contract arrangements they are required to follow severely limit what they can do to improve the quality and breadth of dental care available to their local communities. More dental capacity is there than these integrated care systems are allowed to tap into for NHS-funded care, which is deeply frustrating especially as the impact is often then seen in patients ending up in hospital needing potentially avoidable tooth extractions.

“Reform of the contract needs to incentivise practices to take on more complex cases of dental care, to support them to reach out to a wider group of patients including people who are homeless, and to allow systems to able to reinvest any yearly under-spends from national funding back into oral healthcare interventions locally.

“We call on all political parties to commit to the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan’s target of expanding dentistry training places by 40% by 2031.”