NHS England has a legal duty to commission National Health Service dental services to meet the needs of the local population. NHS England also has arrangements in place to help patients who cannot find a local dentist that is accepting new patients.
The proportion of children seeing a dentist at least once a year is already high with 6.8 million children having seen a dentist in the 12 months ending 31 December 2017. This is 110,767 more children than saw a dentist in the 12 month period ending 31 December 2016.
Survey data suggests 75% of children are now decay free at five years old. But there is further to go to ensure all children benefit from this improvement. The proposed new contract being tested includes a clinical pathway which supports dentists to provide the most appropriate preventative care as well as active treatment. Alongside this NHS England is targeting children in areas of particularly high need.
The ‘Starting Well’ programme has been launched in 13 high needs areas and aims to reach children not currently being seen regularly by a dentist. Starting Well core, a complementary programme NHS England is developing, will take the principles of approach and make it available as a broader model to any commissioner based on local assessment of need and priorities. This is expected to be available later in 2018.