Government officials accidentally sent top secret plans to boost NHS dental care to every MP in the Commons.
The ‘Dental Recovery Plan’, which will see dentists offered a £20,000 “bonus” to encourage them to take on more NHS patients, was not supposed to be unveiled until tomorrow.
But the blueprint, seen by HuffPost UK, landed in MPs’ email inboxes at lunchtime today.
Under the plans, ministers will spend an extra £200 million “to ensure everyone has fast and fair access to a dentist when they need one”.
Up to 240 dentists will receive the £20,000 payment to treat NHS payments for at least three years in so-called “dental deserts” areas where recruitment and retention is difficult.
A new “smile for life” scheme will see children in the first year of primary school will be given lessons on oral hygiene.
Mobile dental teams will also be sent into schools in areas with fewer dentists to provide advice and fluoride treatment to 165,000 children.
The scale of the dental crisis in England has been highlighted this week by images of huge queues of people trying to sign up for an NHS dentist in Bristol.
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: “After 14 years of Conservative neglect, patients are desperately queuing around the block to see a dentist, literally pulling their own teeth out, and tooth decay is the number one reason for 6–10 year-olds being admitted to hospital.
“The Conservatives are only promising to do something about it now there’s an election coming. By adopting Labour’s proposals for recruitment and supervised toothbrushing, they are finally admitting that they are out of ideas of their own.
“It will be left to the next Labour government to rescue NHS dentistry and get patients seen on time once again.”
Dentists have also condemned the government plan.
Shawn Charlwood, chair of the British Dental Association’s general dental practice committee, said: “This ‘Recovery Plan’ is not worthy of the title.
“It won’t halt the exodus from the workforce or offer hope to millions struggling to access care. Nothing here meets government’s stated ambitions, or makes this service fit for the future.
“Ministers wanted to stop dentistry becoming an election issue. By rearranging the deckchairs they’ve achieved the exact opposite.”