Dentist visited by Rishi Sunak is not taking on new NHS patients

The dental practice Rishi Sunak visited in Cornwall to promote his Government’s dentistry plan is not accepting new adult NHS patients.

The Prime Minister met staff and patients at Gentle Dental in Newquay on Thursday.

He told broadcasters that “it hasn’t been easy enough for people to access NHS dentistry over the past couple of years” but claimed “the announcements this week will make a significant difference, and quickly”.

“It’s a very significant new investment in dentistry so that everyone can get the access that they need,” Mr Sunak said.

NHS dental recovery plan
Rishi Sunak talking to patients at Gentle Dental in Newquay (Hugh Hastings/PA)

Under ministers’ £200 million NHS dentistry plan unveiled this week, dentists will be offered cash to accept new patients and given £20,000 “golden hellos” to work in under-served communities.

Mobile dental teams will also be deployed to schools in under-served areas to give 165,000 children preventative fluoride varnish treatments to strengthen their teeth and prevent decay.

But leading dentists said the recovery package will not be enough to help people struggling to access dental care.

Earlier this week, hundreds of people queued outside a dental practice in Bristol after it opened its books for NHS patients.

Experts said the queues would be replicated around the country if more practices were taking on NHS patients.

Speaking to journalists during his visit to Gentle Dental, Mr Sunak said: “The new funding that we’ve announced will, I think, make a significant difference, and soon.

“This is going to be rolled out imminently and two and a half million more appointments to take us up to pre-Covid levels of NHS dentistry, I think, is a significant step.”

However, he did not say whether he could guarantee everyone access to an NHS dentist.

The chair of the British Dental Association, Eddie Crouch, said: “Rishi Sunak is seeing what life is like for millions across this country. The difference is he has options.

“The PM won’t have to queue around the block to get an appointment. He won’t face travelling hundreds of miles for care. He’ll never find himself reaching for a set of pliers.

“The paucity of the Government’s plan means many patients will keep facing these horrific choices.”

Downing Street suggested the decision to visit a dentist that was not accepting patients was “deliberate” in order to hear from a surgery that has “experienced barriers” to providing appointments for patients.

A Number 10 spokeswoman said: “As I understand this was a deliberate choice, wanting to speak to a surgery to hear from them about the challenges that they’re facing so they can take on more NHS patients. Obviously we want to make sure that everyone who wants an NHS appointment is able to get one.”

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