Health secretary discusses contract reform with dental leaders

The Health Secretary is to meet with dental industry leaders today to begin negotiations on the NHS dental contract.

The health secretary Wes Streeting today met with dental leaders to begin negotiations on the NHS dental contract.

He also discussed the launch of Labour’s Dentistry Rescue Plan, which aims to create an additional 700,000 emergency dental appointments each year and tackle ‘dental deserts’.

Streeting met with the British Dental Association (BDA), which stated that this initial discussion has ‘opened the door to reform of the discredited contract NHS dentists in England work to’.

The association also said that it is ‘ready to work constructively to with the new government’ on the delivery of its commitment to NHS dentistry.

Shawn Charlwood, chair of the BDA’s General Dental Practice Committee, said: “The first step to save NHS dentistry is admitting we have a problem. Wes Streeting has done so today.

‘There is finally recognition that failed contracts and underfunding have fuelled the current crisis.

‘We take absolutely nothing for granted, and will hold this government to account as we did the last. But there’s now a chance to move forward, to rescue and reform a service millions depend on.’

Credit: British Dental Association (@TheBDA on X)

Big priority

This comes as the Labour Party won the 2024 general election by a landslide last week.

Following the win, Prime Minister Keir Starmer appointed Wes Streeting as the next secretary of state for health and social care. He has served as shadow health and care secretary since November 2021.

During the party’s general election campaign, Streeting promised to meet with dental representatives to discuss the NHS dental contract if Labour won the election.

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other parts of the NHS, the challenge in dentistry is that we’ve got quite a lot of dentists, but the contract is so out of date that it just doesn’t pay what the dentistry is worth.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

Profession reacts

The British Society of Paediatric Dentistry (BSPD) welcomed today’s discussion between Streeting and dental leaders. It said: ‘BSPD is looking forward to joining the dental system reform discussions as the expert voice on children’s oral health.’

This comes as members of the dental profession discussed their thoughts on the Labour victory and what they would like to see from the new government.

Dentist Nilesh Parmar said: ‘They have spoken about reforming the NHS dental contract, helping retain NHS dentists and bringing about 700,000 emergency appointments for NHS dentistry. But there’s no protocol on how they’re actually going to do this.

‘How are they going to reform the contract? In what manner are they going to reform the contract? We just don’t know.’

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