Dental Experts Call for More Ambitious Plans to Stop the Decline of NHS Dentistry in England

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20 May 2024


The Faculty of Dental Surgery at The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (RCSEd) has launched a manifesto which lays out recommendations to protect NHS dentistry amid a UK dental crisis.

It comes as the UK’s largest dental faculty, representing over 8,000 members across the UK, expressed its disappointment at “inadequate” Government plans.

The Department of Health & Social Care has announced a new Dental Recruitment Incentive Scheme that will offer 240 dentists bonus payments of £20,000 to work in underserved areas for up to three years, calling it a “golden hello” scheme.

The Faculty says this is merely a “sticking plaster” solution, with its manifesto outlining the more substantial steps it believes are needed to stop the decline of NHS dentistry.

The manifesto points to issues around funding, recruitment and retention, pay differentials amongst trainees, the future of the wider dental team, and how to address worsening health inequalities.

It identifies funding as the central issue that has led to nine out of ten dental practices not accepting new adult NHS patients, and eight out of ten not accepting new child NHS patients; a failure the Faculty believes requires £1.5bn in new funds to resolve.

The manifesto notes that the NHS England Dental Recovery Plan has positive elements but lacks ambition, especially when compared to existing frameworks in Wales and Scotland.

Contract reform in England is seen as a pressing priority for the profession, with the manifesto directly outlining the relationship between the poor-quality contracts for NHS dentists and the fast-dwindling access for many to NHS dental services.

Key recommendations include:

  • A prevention, rather than treatment, focused funding programme for dentistry
  • A funding model that encourages extended use of the wider dental team including hygienists and dental therapists
  • A framework more supportive of flexible working for NHS dentists
  • Clarity around access to NHS staff mental health services for dentists
  • Support for a more comprehensive and universal delivery of Tier 2 dentists to keep more patients out of hospital
  • A requirement for dental trainees to spend their initial years in NHS practice
  • Rules to prevent Integrated Care Boards dental underspend being redirected into other areas of healthcare
  • Parity of dental trainee salaries across the four nations

Dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery at RCSEd, Professor Grant McIntyre, says:

“The 'golden hello' is too little too late. The UK has the lowest per capita spend on dentistry among comparable European nations and the recently announced recovery plan is inadequate – we need more extensive reform.

Recent figures show we need 20,000 more NHS dentists across the UK. The remaining NHS team is in a vicious circle where the lack of NHS dental provision means more and more patients turn to the few who remain, increasing workloads and stress, inevitably forcing more out.

We are pushing for a full-service redesign that supports all members of the dental profession, crucial for the future of NHS services across the four nations. This isn't just about dental health either – the lack of access to dentists is having a knock-on effect on detection and early management of head and neck cancers.

This manifesto points to where government can enact change to address degrading access to NHS dental care, and how that plays into wider socioeconomic health inequalities.

The recent discussions about dental vans to provide care in remote areas is promising, but, like the 'golden hello' scheme, we are still to be convinced of the scale and overall impact.

It will require big changes and curated incentives to address the gaps in service provision across the UK, but it is abundantly clear that by making things better for the wider dental team we will be making things better for all patients. We will be advocating on behalf of our members to make the biggest improvements for their patients.”

 Click here to read the full manifesto.



Issued by tigerbond on behalf of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. For further information, please contact or +44 07713314502.


About The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh

RCSEd was first incorporated as the Barber Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1505, and is the oldest surgical corporation in the world with memberships approaching 25,000 professionals in over 100 countries worldwide. The College promotes the highest standards of surgical and dental practice through its interest in education, training and examinations, its liaison with external medical bodies and representation of the modern surgical and dental workforce. It is also home to the UK’s only Faculty of Surgical Trainers, open to all those with an interest in surgical training regardless of College affiliation. Find RCSEd on Twitter and on Facebook

The College is based at Nicolson Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9DW and can be reached on (0)131 527 1600 or In March 2014, a new base opened in Birmingham, catering to the 80% of the College’s UK membership who are based in England and Wales.

For all media enquiries please contact the Communications Team on +447467 485145 or email 


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