Nearly one third of local dental budgets unspent, data suggests

Nearly one third of local dental budgets unspent, data suggests

New analysis shows that nearly one third of local dental budgets are going unspent in some areas of England.

According to data from the Health Service Journal (HSJ), Lincolnshire and Hampshire Integrated Care Board are on course to underspend their dental budgets by 30% in 2023-24.

Norfolk and Waveney are heading for 27%, Somerset 25%, and Herefordshire and Worcestershire 17%.

Underspends do not reflect any lack of demand for NHS dentistry but are the result of practices struggling to reach targets, says the British Dental Association (BDA).

‘Broken system’

Shawn Charlwood, chair of the BDA’s General Dental Practice Committee, said: ‘We’re seeing the results of a postcode lottery designed in Westminster.

‘Better funding supports better access for millions. The government knows this but has set a new minimum rate that will only benefit one in ten practices. 

‘But we need more than tinkering with a broken system. Solving this access crisis requires real reform and fair funding.’


This follows the publication of the long-awaited NHS dentistry recovery plan.

The report was released on 7 February, with NHS England detailing new measures to tackle the current NHS dental crisis including:

  • NHS dentists will be given a ‘new patient’ payment of between £15 to £50 (depending on treatment need) to treat around a million new patients who have not seen an NHS dentist in two years or more
  • 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
  • A new ‘Smile for Life’ initiative, offering advice to parents and parents-to-be on the right care for baby gums and milk teeth
  • The minimum value of NHS activity increasing to £28 (from £23)
  • Dental vans’ sent to rural areas to help reach the most isolated communities
  • A water fluoridation programme to be rolled out by government (subject to consultation).

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