Can the dental recovery plan deliver real change?

Nigel Jones weighs up the pros and cons of the dental recovery plan

Nigel Jones weighs up the pros and cons of the recently announced dental recovery plan – does it represent real reform or an attempt by the government to appear in control?

The publication of the government’s dental recovery plan (DRP) has at least sparked off considerable debate about how NHS dentistry in England got into its current state.

To be fair, some of the debate was actually quite well informed. In a parallel world, encouraging discussion about how to improve NHS dentistry might have been the objective of the DRP. In which case, even allowing for many contributions that were scarily wide of the mark, such debate should be welcomed.

However, on the Department of Health website, it says the aim of the plan is: ‘To make sure everyone who needs to see a dentist, particularly those who have been unable to access care in the past two years, will be able to do so, making access to care faster and fairer.’

Really? Do the authors genuinely believe this plan can achieve that?

‘Lightweight and unconvincing’

Call me cynical but in case it’s escaped someone’s notice, we are expecting a general election sometime this year. It’s hard to avoid thinking that the purpose of the plan is to create the impression within the general public that the situation is under control and that the government will be able to make sure everyone who needs to see a dentist is able to do so.

But if that were the case, surely they would have briefed the various ministers and Conservative MPs far more thoroughly. This might have avoided them sounding so lightweight and unconvincing in their media encounters on publication day.

‘The true scale of the problem is genuinely dawning on people’

But to return to the positives, it has at least been responsible for some fairly calm rational discussion. I sense the true scale of the problem is genuinely dawning on people. There seems to be a growing acceptance that a quick fix, or even a medium-term fix, will only ever paper over the cracks. People are aware that a fundamental rethink is needed.  

Also, the deflection technique of blaming ‘greedy dentists’ was noticeably absent from the input of both politicians and the public. That’s presumably because the government has boxed itself in by continually criticising a dental contract introduced under Labour. Much credit should also go to the BDA for its success in distinguishing the profession from the system.

So, the stage is set for a new government to grasp the nettle. Will they take the radical tough action for which the Nuffield Trust was calling for as 2023 drew to a close? With widening oral health inequality in mind, let’s hope the opportunity is taken.

If you’re considering your options away from the NHS and are looking for a provider who will hold your hand through the process while moving at a pace that’s right for you, why not start the conversation with Practice Plan on 01691 684165, or book your one-to-one NHS to private call today:

For more information visit the Practice Plan website:

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