Newly trained dentists forced to work on NHS to tackle ‘dental deserts’

Dentist looking down on camera with tools in hand
Dentists who have just finished their training could be prevented from going into private practice - Peter Cade

Newly trained dentists are to be forced to work on the NHS to tackle the “dental deserts” crisis, under new Government plans.

Dentists who have just finished their training could be prevented from going into private practice and forced to deliver NHS care for several years.

An average of £200,000 of taxpayer money is spent on training each dentist, but there is no requirement for them to work for the NHS upon graduating.

There are around 2,300 people for every dentist in England, according to the latest data, and they are not evenly distributed across the country.

It comes after queues of hundreds of people were seen outside a new dental practice in Bristol earlier this year, as they tried to secure an appointment.

People in line outside the St Pauls Dental Practice on Ashley Road, Bristol
People queuing outside the St Pauls Dental Practice in Bristol trying to secure an appointment - Ben Birchall

The plans to force dentists to work for the NHS upon completion of their training, first reported by the Mail on Sunday, will be put out for consultation this week.

Around a third of the 35,000 dentists currently registered with the General Dental Council in England do not do any work for the NHS.

A Department of Health source told the Mail on Sunday: “We want to give dental graduates the best start to their careers, and the way to do that is for them to work in the NHS, which gives them the broadest range of experience and the most comprehensive training.

“Ensuring dental graduates work in the NHS for at least some of their careers also represents value for money for taxpayers, who make a significant investment in training our hard-working dentists.”

In February, Victoria Atkins, the Health Secretary, pledged to offer golden hellos worth £20,000 to relocate to “dental deserts”.

Hundreds of people are queuing outside a new dental practice in St Pauls, Bristol
Hundreds of people queuing outside the new Bristol dental practice earlier this year - Lee Thomas

It was part of the “NHS dental recovery plan” published that month, in which the Government promised to provide an additional 2.5 million appointments in England over the next year.

Just one in 10 adults has seen an NHS dentist locally over the last year in some parts of the country, with parts of London, Surrey and Cambridgeshire among areas with the worst access.

The figures by Onward revealed that North Kevesten, Lincolnshire, was the worst “dental desert”, with just 11.9 per cent of people having seen a dentist in the past year.

There have also been reports of a rise in so-called “DIY dentistry”, including people taking matters into their own hands and pulling out their teeth with pliers.