NHS: Issues with Dental Care
Laurence understands how affected many of his constituents are because of this issue. He and the Government are determined to make sure everybody seeking NHS dental care can and do receive it when they need it.
To this end, the Government announced an additional £50 million in funding for dentistry on 25 January 2022 to spend before the end of the financial year to help deal with the backlog.
The Government are also addressing larger underlying issues this sector was and is facing to see a decrease on the strain of NHS dentistry. This includes new contracts that rewards dentists more fairly for taking on high needs patients and delivering treatments to those who need it most. The Government expect that this should help patients, like yourself, to locate practices taking on new patients and access the treatments they need quickly.
Further, following recommendations made by Health Education England, the Government has expressed a commitment to more flexible entry routes into dental training, exploring ‘Centres of Development’, supporting the development of apprenticeships “to diversify and promote the concept of a local dental workforce approach”, and distributing postgraduate training posts so they are better aligned to areas with the highest levels of oral health inequalities. All with the intention of multiplying future availability by increasing the qualified persons in this field.
Relevant to Gloucestershire specifically, access to NHS dental services in Gloucestershire has historically been challenging, with demand exceeding the capacity available mainly due to insufficient workforce and the capacity of practices to take on new patients.
Laurence has been in contact with the local NHS trust, as well as other relevant parties. Including Rachel Pearce, Director of Commissioning NHS England & NHS Improvement South West.
Laurence has raised this issue in Parliament and will continue to press the point; he will continue discussions with colleagues and stakeholders to ensure this is taken as a matter of priority, and to understand the developing situation.
NHS: General Practice
The Government launched a recovery plan for general practices (GPs); focusing on supporting GPs through providing them with the technology and tools that will help them deal with ever-increasing demand.
Since September 2022 Our Plan for Patients has helped practices to recruit more support staff so GPs can spend their time doing the tasks only a GP can do and put in place state-of-the art telephone systems to make it easier to manage demand, triage callers, and ensure patients are seen at the right time by the right clinician for their needs.
To boost recruitment, the government have increased the number of GP training places. Last year, we saw the highest ever number of doctors accepting a place on GP training: a record 4,032 trainees, up from 2,671 in 2014.
In 2019 the Government agreed a five year GP contract framework with the British Medical Association (BMA) which was underpinned by a record level of additional investment. This was underpinned by an additional £4.5 billion for primary and community care by 2023/24 as part of the NHS Long Term Plan. The Government invested a further £1.5 billion announced in 2020 to create an additional 50 million GP appointments by 2024 by increasing and diversifying the workforce. The Department for Health and Social Care also made £520 million available to improve access and expand general practice capacity during the pandemic. As agreed with the general practitioners committee of the BMA in 2019 as part of the five-year GP contract, the investment envelope is fixed, and no further funding will be provided. The five year framework ends in March 2024. Future funding arrangements for GP will be considered in due course.
The Government recognise that high workloads can act as a key driver for GPs reducing their contracted hours or leaving the profession altogether. The expanded primary care teams funded through the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme will add extra clinical capacity.
Public sector businesses are covered by the Energy Bill Relief Scheme, and so have the unit price of energy capped. HM Treasury have announced that from April 2023, a new scheme, the Energy Bills Discount Scheme to support businesses. The new scheme strikes a balance between supporting businesses over the next 12 months and limiting taxpayer’s exposure to volatile energy markets.
The Government have accepted the independent pay review body’s (the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration) recommendation. The minimum and maximum pay thresholds for salaried GPs are being uplifted by 4.5%. The multi-year GP Contract provides funding clarity and certainty to practices until 2023/24. The agreed investment envelope is fixed and the core settlement covers all aspects of practice income and expenses, including salaried GP pay.
As self-employed contractors to the NHS, it is for GP practices to determine uplifts in pay for their employees and themselves within the agreed GP contract funding envelope.
Laurence fully understands the important role all involved in our national health service play; he will continue to hold conversations with ministers about what else can and should be done.
Laurence has been a long-time supporter of the great work that the Alzheimer’s Society have carried out and is committed to ensuring improvements are made in care for sufferers.
The government recognise that charities, including the Alzheimer's Society, play an important part for society and have put in place generous long-term financial measures for the charity sector which include more than £1.3 billion a year in respect of Gift Aid on donations.
In 2021/22, £17 million was made available to clinical commissioning groups to address dementia waiting lists and increase the number of diagnoses. Work to improve dementia diagnosis rates do continue in 2022/23.
The government have further committed to double the funding for dementia research to £160 million a year by 2024/25. This will include research into its causes, prevention, treatment and care.
In December 2022, the recovery of the dementia diagnosis rate to the national ambition of 66.7% was included in the NHS priorities and operational planning guidance as part of the refined mental health objectives for 2023/24. This reinforces the importance of dementia as a key priority for NHS England and provides a clear direction for integrated care boards to support delivery of timely diagnoses within systems. Looking forward, the government is committed to ensuring that charities such as the Alzheimer’s Society are supported, with the Dementia 2020 Challenge aiming to make England the best country in the world for dementia care, support, awareness and research.
Cancer Support and Treatment
More people are surviving cancer than ever before, but the Government knows that even more lives can be saved by catching more cancers early and starting treatment fast.
The Government is committed to reducing cancer waiting times and has worked with NHS England to publish the elective recovery delivery plan in February 2022, backed by funding of £8 billion, to drive up elective activity. This is further supported by £2.3 billion to expand diagnostic services, including the role of community diagnostic centres prioritising cancer services.
In 2023/24, NHS England is continuing to invest £50 million in the priorities set out in the Cancer workforce plan, including additional medical training places for clinical and medical oncology, radiology, histopathology and gastroenterology.
As of February 2023, there were 33,174 full-time equivalent staff in the cancer workforce in National Health Service trusts in England, including histopathologists, gastroenterologists, clinical radiologists, medical and clinical oncologists and diagnostic and therapeutic radiographers.
In January 2023, Health Education England announced that nearly 900 additional medical specialty training posts have been created for this year, including more than 500 in the key areas of mental health and cancer treatment.
More broadly, the NHS Long Term Plan aims to save thousands more lives each year by dramatically improving how cancer is diagnosed and treated. This plan aims to improve the UK’s national screening programmes, giving people faster access to diagnostic tests, investing in cutting edge treatments and technologies, and making sure more patients can quickly benefit from precise, highly personalised treatments as medical science advances.
The NHS Long Term Plan will:
- Lower the age for bowel screening, introduce new forms of cervical cancer screening and extend lung health checks as part of the ambition to have three-quarters of all cancers diagnosed at an early stage.
- Create new Rapid Diagnostic Centres across the country so patients displaying symptoms of cancer can be assessed and diagnosed in as little as a day.
- Introduce a new, faster diagnosis standard which will ensure that patients receive a definitive diagnosis or ruling out of cancer within 28 days.
- Give people with cancer care that suits their needs with personalised care packages, giving patients more say over the care they receive.
- Make sure that people can access more effective tests and treatments, from genomic testing to proton beam therapy, to help find more cancers before symptoms appear.
You can read more about the NHS Long Term Plan here.