New government plans to boost number of dentists in England

The government will train thousands more dentists and doctors as part of a new scheme to boost staff numbers.

The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, published today, proposes plans to train thousands more dentists in England over the next five to ten years.

Amanda Pritchard, the chief executive of NHS England, and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak provided more details at a joint conference at Downing Street.

As part of the plan, it will increase training places for dental therapists and hygiene professionals to more than 500 by 2031/32.

It will also increase training places for dentists by 40% to more than 1,100 by this same year.

In support of this, it will increase training places for dental therapy and hygiene professionals by 28% by 2028/29, with an increase of 24% for dentists to 1,000 places over the same period.

It adds that NHS England will explore measures with the government – such as a tie-in period – to encourage dentists to spend a minimum proportion of their time delivering NHS care in the years following graduation.

According to reports, the NHS will receive £2.4 billion in extra funding to pay for the planned rise.


But dentists are warning that the plans are just the ‘latest attempt to fill a leaky bucket’.

The British Dental Association (BDA) argue that the government has only brought forward minor tweaks to the NHS contract.

Eddie Crouch, chair of the BDA, said: ‘This workforce plan is government’s latest attempt to fill a leaky bucket.

‘Failed contracts and underfunding are fuelling an exodus from this service. There’s little point training more dentists who don’t want to work in the NHS.’

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‘Not a magic bullet’

The General Dental Council has recently stated that bringing in more dentists will not solve problems fuelled by broken contracts.

Speaking at the Annual Conference of Local Dental Committees earlier this month, GDC chair Lord Toby Harris said increasing staff numbers is ‘not a magic bullet’.

‘Improving the throughput of those from overseas who want to be registered in this country is the right thing to be doing,’ he said.

‘But it is not some magic bullet that will solve the problems in NHS dentistry.

‘If the contractual terms by which NHS services are provided are unattractive to many dentists currently on the register, then there is no reason why those same terms will be any more attractive to new registrants – whether they are from overseas or who qualify here.’

You can read the full plan here.

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