What does a Labour government mean for dentistry?

What does a Labour government mean for dentistry?

For the first time in 14 years, the UK has a change in government. But what will a Labour government do for dentistry?

Yesterday, millions of people fled to the polls to have their say on the next UK government for the first time since 2019.

As the polls predicted, Keir Starmer is now Prime Minister after the Labour Party won with a significant majority, currently boasting 410 seats. The party needed 326 for a majority.

But what has the party promised it will do when it comes to dentistry or, more specifically, NHS dentistry?

Rebuild dentistry

In its manifesto, the Labour Party pledged to enforce a new Dentistry Rescue Plan, stating that getting an NHS dentist is becoming ‘a lottery’ in the UK.

The plan involves:

  • Fill the gap of appointments with an extra 700,000 urgent and emergency dental appointments a year
  • Flood dental deserts with new dentistry graduates, with golden hellos of £20,000 for those who spend at least three years working in underserved areas
  • Supervised toothbrushing for three to five year olds, to prevent children forced to hospital to have their rotting teeth pulled out
  • Reform of the dental contract, to rebuild NHS dentistry and make sure everyone who needs a dentist can get one.

The party says that the plan is fully funded by closing further non-dom tax loopholes and investment in reducing tax avoidance.

At a Sky News general election debate last month, NHS dentistry was a key topic of discussion. An audience member asked Starmer how he would improve access to NHS dentistry, having waited for treatment for over a year.

In response, Starmer said he would generate 700,000 more emergency dental appointments, 100,000 more dental appointments for children and incentivise graduate dentists to practise in the NHS.

Contract reform

During Labour’s election campaign, MP for Ilford North Wes Streeting also promised to meet with dental representatives to begin negotiations on the NHS dental contract following the party’s win.

He said: ‘Unlike lots of the other parts of the NHS, the challenge in dentistry is that we’ve got quite a lot of dentists, but the contract is so out of date that it just doesn’t pay what the dentistry is worth.

‘So we’re going to have to negotiate a new dentistry contact. I’ve committed to getting the BDA in on the Monday after the general election if we win because I see it as that big a priority.’

This was welcomed by British trade union Community, which stated that this commitment is a clear signal of the party’s ambition for the sector.

Community assistant general secretary, Alasdair McDiarmid, said: ‘The UK’s dentistry sector has been neglected for far too long by the Tory government. Waiting times are up, staff are demoralised and they have no plan to get us out of this crisis.

‘That’s why we welcome Wes Streeting’s commitment to meet with representatives of the dental sector within the first week of a UK Labour government. Because it shows the drive and ambition for patients, dental nurses and dentists to change things for the better.’

How do you feel about the future of dentistry? Email [email protected].

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