Hundreds of thousands of dental patients in England are to be offered weekend and evening appointments under NHS plans to tackle the backlog exacerbated by the pandemic.
More than 350,000 extra dental appointments are to be made available in February and March, NHS England said, with a new £50m funding pot aimed at fuelling a dentistry “treatment blitz”.
However, senior dentistry sources said the cash was a “drop in the ocean”, with tens of millions of NHS appointments cancelled as a result of Covid-19 and the resulting backlog set to take years to clear.
Some also expressed doubts about whether there would be enough staff to offer the additional appointments, since hundreds of dentists have quit the profession in the last 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 as a result, and others believed they had no option but to conduct “DIY dentistry” while waiting for treatment, or felt coerced into “going private”.
Under the new plans to tackle the backlog, NHS England said dentists involved in the scheme would “be paid more than a third on top of their normal sessional fee” for delivering care outside their core hours.
Source: The Guardian, 25 January 2022