Government announces Dental Recovery Plan

07 Feb 2024
NHS South East London

The Government has announced its ‘Dental Recovery Plan’ which aims to ensure easier and faster access to NHS dental care across England.

Under the plans, NHS dentists will be given a ‘new patient’ payment of between £15-£50 (depending on treatment need) to treat new patients who have not seen an NHS dentist in two years or more.

Published on 7 Feb, the plan proposes additional NHS dental appointments, to be delivered for patients over the next 12 months.

It sets out how the government plans to drive a major new focus on prevention and good oral health in young children and deliver an expanded dental workforce.

The plan will also see the government roll out a new ‘Smile For Life’ programme offering parents and parents-to-be advice for baby gums and milk teeth, with the aim that by the time children go to school, all children will see tooth brushing as a normal part of their day.

To attract new NHS dentists and improve access to care in areas with the highest demand, 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.

The public should also be able to see which practices in their local area are accepting new patients on the NHS website and the NHS App. To promote the increased availability of appointments, the government will roll out a marketing campaign encouraging anyone who has not been seen by a dentist for the past two years to access treatment.

New ways of delivering care in rural and coastal areas will also be rolled out, including launching ‘dental vans’ to help reach the most isolated communities.

In addition, the government is planning a water fluoridation programme, which aims to reduce the number of tooth extractions due to decay in the most deprived areas of the country. 

The health service will build a pipeline of new dentists and other dental care professionals, including increasing dental training places by up to 40% by 2031/32, as part of the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan.

The plan also includes new measures to attract dentists to work in the NHS, including supporting more graduate dentists to work in NHS care. The government will consult on whether dentists should be required to work in the NHS for a period upon completion of their training.


Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said: “COVID-19 has significantly impacted NHS dental care, and teams across the country are working hard to recover services and meet rising demand.

“Building on the reforms we have already implemented, the health service will now introduce a wide range of practical measures to help make it easier for people to see a dentist, from incentivising dentists to take on new patients to supporting dentists to be part of the NHS in areas where access is challenging.

“Recovering dentistry is a priority for the NHS and this plan is a significant step towards transforming NHS dental services for the better.”


The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said: “NHS dentistry was hit hard by the pandemic and while services are improving – with 23% more treatments delivered last year compared to the previous year – we know that for too many people, accessing a dentist isn’t as easy as it should be.

“That’s why we’re taking action today to boost the number of NHS dentists, help cut waiting lists and put NHS dentistry on a sustainable footing for the long-term. Backed by £200 million, this new recovery plan will deliver millions more NHS dental appointments and provide easier and faster access to care for people right across the country.”


Health and Social Care Secretary, Victoria Atkins, said: “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.”


Jason Wong MBE, Interim Chief Dental Officer for England, said: “Two years ago the NHS implemented the first reforms to dentistry in 16 years and this plan will now build on that work to ensure that one and half million additional dental treatments will be offered to patients next year. 

“Good oral health remains essential for good general health, and this package of measures will ensure more patients can access NHS dental services while better supporting dental teams across the country to provide high-quality care.”