Obviously, we have a commitment for patients, including children and young people, to receive NHS dental care and treatment as quickly as possible. We are supporting a range of measures to remobilise the NHS overall, which of course includes dental services. As part of that process, I can confirm today a funding package of up to £5 million for improved ventilation in dental premises. We will also continue to fund free personal protective equipment for the dental sector, and increase that supply by up to 50 per cent from July. We will also re-introduce the child smile programme.
There is a significant challenge across the whole NHS to tackle backlogs and get the service back to normal. That is the case in dental services as well, and we will continue to take the necessary steps to support that work.
I wrote to the Scottish Government last week about how it analyses waiting times for dentistry, and the answer was that it does not. Dentists have warned of years and years of delays. Given that dental care is a vital part of health and wellbeing for children, how is that situation acceptable? Longer and longer waits for NHS treatment for children and adults mean that many people choose to go private. Is that not just privatisation by stealth?
No. However, it is important and right that we be vigilant around that point. It is the NHS that provides the services that people need, whether for healthcare generally or for dental services in particular. I have not personally seen the letter to which Sarah Boyack refers, but I am happy to have a look at it and its response. I know that the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care met with the British Dental Association—this week, I think—to discuss those very issues, so there is a real recognition of the importance to support recovery as quickly as possible, in dental services as in the NHS.
To give some context, prior to Covid, NHS dental services provided more than four million courses of treatment every year. A record number of people are registered with an NHS dentist—more than 95 per cent of the population. There are, however, pressures there—some are Covid related and some undoubtedly pre-date Covid. Through funding and efforts to protect from the impacts of Covid and, where necessary, through a redesign of services, the Government will support the profession to ensure that people get the care and treatment that they need, and that they get it on the national health service.