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Teaching activity

In the News Teaching Activity – will the government’s latest dental policies get to the root of the NHS dentist shortage problem? (Feb 2024)

Elizabeth Veal

15th February 2024

The UK’s dental health has been deteriorating as many people cannot find an NHS dentist nor afford to go private. With an election looming, the main political parties are competing to find the best policy solutions to get the nation smiling again.

The UK is facing a severe dentist shortage, exacerbated by a 121-dentist drop in those offering NHS care in 2023. The government's latest response involves cash incentives to attract dentists, aiming to provide 1.5 million additional NHS treatments. The Nuffield Trust blamed insufficient funding for the dental service's most precarious state in its 75-year history. Inequalities in access, particularly in rural areas, has led to plans for dental vans in coastal regions. The Dental Recovery Plan offers £20,000 incentives for dentists to work in underserved areas. Additionally, dental teams will go into schools to protect children’s teeth with fluoride treatments and get them brushing their teeth more regularly to prevent the need for more expensive future treatments. The British Dental Association disputes the government's claim of creating "millions" of new appointments. Critics highlight a decade of NHS dental service neglect and cynics might say that the government's sudden urgency for reform is motivated by the forthcoming election.

Cash incentives to be offered in government plan to stop 'Britain’s dental crisis' | ITV News

1 Using a demand and supply diagram for dental services, show how a shortage of dentists could make dental treatment too expensive for some people.

2 Explain why the provision of affordable dental care could increase the net welfare of the nation.

3 Watch the video clip from ITV news. Discuss the effectiveness of the government’s proposals to reduce the shortage of NHS dentists in the UK.

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Elizabeth Veal

Liz has taught Economics for over 25 years, including several years as Head of Economics at leading schools.

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