"Serious questions" over plans to improve access to dentistry in York

A campaigner has said there are "serious questions" around plans to improve access to dentistry in York.

Mark Jones, founder of Toothless in England, said people in York shouldn't hold their breath over plans presented to the City of York Council to improve dentistry in the city.

It follows an announcement in February from the government that its dental recovery plan "will fund more than 1.5 million additional NHS dentistry treatments or 2.5 million NHS dentistry appointments" nationally.

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However, health minister Dame Andrea Leadsom said that the figure was based on modelling and there is a “high likelihood” that it is not reliable.

Dentistry access has been an issue in York in recent yearsDentistry access has been an issue in York in recent years
Dentistry access has been an issue in York in recent years

The plan includes a new prevention programme focused on younger children and reducing bureaucracy to make dentistry simpler for patients and dentists.

There is also a new patient premium paid to practices for appointments with new NHS patients and a dental van service included in the plans.

Shawn Charlwood, chair of the British Dental Association’s general dental practice committee, said: “It feels to me that this plan was not designed to rescue NHS dentistry, it was designed with the upcoming election in mind to try and limit the political damage the access crisis is doing to political prospects in constituencies."

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At a health and wellbeing board meeting at the City of York Council on March 20, Andrew Hobson, the deputy director for dental commissioning for the NHS Yorkshire and Humber ICB, said: “In terms of the recovery plan I’m not going to sit here and say this is the solution to all of our problems in terms of access to dentistry in York, but we do want to work really hard to maximise its impact.”

Operational plans for the NHS Yorkshire and Humber ICB include taking a new approach to managing its financial risk and agreeing to commit to nonrecurrent funding, based on past performance, from April 2024.

The ICB is developing its investment plan and has already confirmed for York a continuation of all existing flexible commissioning schemes, which promotes early intervention and improves access for vulnerable groups through participating practices.

There will also be a continuation of all additional urgent access sessions.

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While Coun Jo Coles, the council’s health executive, described it as “genuinely really good news”, Toothless in England's Mr Jones said: “If all that’s being presented is a rehashing of what the government has announced, we would advise against the people of York holding their breath.

“Serious questions really do have to be asked of ICBs’ progress in making NHS dentistry more accessible given that they have had responsibility since April 1, 2023.”

Just 38.1 per cent of adults were seen by a dentist in the two years leading up to June 2022, data from the House of Commons library shows.

In the 12 months up to June 2022, 56.2 per cent of children were seen by a dentist in York.

These figures are down from 54.6 per cent for adults and 75 per cent for children in June 2018.

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