New payments for dentists to make more appointments available

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Dental practices will benefit from extra cash for taking on new NHS patients from today (Friday 1 March) in the latest milestone in the government and NHS’s plan to make millions more dental appointments available.

The new patient premium will mean that participating NHS practices can benefit from payments of either £50 or £15, depending on care, for each new patient treated.

This will apply for any patient who has not seen an NHS dentist over the past two years. The level of the payment will depend on the complexity of the treatment required and is on top of existing funding the practice receives for treating patients.

Dentists delivering core NHS services including examination, diagnosis and treatment, will be eligible for the new patient premium. The premium will be paid to dental practices automatically after treating a patient who has not been seen within the past two years.

Through the scheme and wider measures in the dental recovery plan – which is backed by £200 million – the government and NHS aims to deliver an extra 2.5 million appointments for patients over the next 12 months.

The plan builds on existing work to improve access to dentistry, with the government investing more than £3 billion each year to support the sector. Last year, 1.7 million more adults and around 800,000 more children saw an NHS dentist compared to the previous year.

Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said:

I want to make access to dentistry faster, simpler and fairer for patients – particularly those who have not been able to see a dentist in the past two years.

This scheme is good for patients and good for dentists. It will see millions more appointments made available for those who need them, while also rewarding those dentists who are taking on new NHS patients.

It’s all part of our plan to put NHS dentistry on a sustainable footing for the long-term and ensure that good oral health is a reality for everyone.

Primary Care Minister Andrea Leadsom said:

Healthy gums and teeth are crucial for wider good health, and our dental recovery plan sets out how we are working to improve access and help the dental sector recover from the impact of the pandemic.

I want to thank the many hard-working dentists for all their efforts. This new patient premium will mean they are able to provide around 2.5 million more dental appointments – giving around a million extra patients the high-quality treatment and care they need.

The scheme is particularly designed to improve the oral health of those who do not have an existing relationship with a dental practice. The latest GP Patient Survey – based on January to March 2023 data – shows that patients who have no relationship with an NHS practice had a 33% success rate in accessing care, whereas patients already known to a dental practice had an 83% success rate.

The new patient premium will mean that around 1 million new patients – defined as patients who have not seen an NHS dentist in two years or more – will be able to access appointments.

Jason Wong MBE, Interim Chief Dental Officer for England, said:   

Good oral health remains essential for good general health and now more patients will be able to access NHS dental services thanks to the majority of dental practices across England being eligible to introduce new patient premiums.   

This is just one part of our recently announced package of measures to improve access while also better supporting dental teams across the country to provide high-quality care. 

Dr Amanda Doyle, NHS England National Director for Primary Care and Community Services said: 

This is an important next step in recovering and reforming NHS dentistry and giving dentists a new patient payment will help to treat around a million additional patients who have not seen an NHS dentist in over two years.  

This forms part of a range of wider initiatives to improve access to local health services, including making it easier to get help from your GP practice and expanding the services community pharmacies offer.

The plan also includes measures to boost the dental workforce – including by implementing measures in the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan to increase training places for dental professionals by 40% by 2032.

The government has also recently launched a consultation on cutting red tape so that dentists who have been trained overseas are able to practice in the NHS more quickly. Around 30% of all dentists on the General Dental Council’s register qualified outside of the UK.

The plan also outlines how the government will reform the dental contract to make NHS work more attractive – building on reforms brought in 2022 to incentivise practices to deliver more dental care, including by increasing the amount of money practices receive for high-need patients and allowing dentists to carry out more than their usual contracted NHS work.  

Louise Ansari, CEO at Healthwatch England said:

The patient premium, if taken up by dentists, has the potential to be a game-changer for people who’ve struggled to access appointments in the past two years.

It could mean that children get their first ever check-up, while adults get treatment for problems that have long caused them pain or prevented them from eating, working or socialising.

It’s now important that the NHS makes it easy for people to find out which dentists will be offering new appointments based on the two-year criteria, so they only seek appointments from the relevant practices. NHS commissioners of dental services should also promote these new appointments to people who have struggled to access care in recent years, especially those on lower incomes, women, and some ethnic minority patients.

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