Society writes to the secretary of state for health to highlight the impact of sugar on children’s health

15 November 2023

At the start of Sugar Awareness Week (13–19 November 2023), Professor Paula Waterhouse, BSPD’s president, wrote to the new secretary of state for health and social care to congratulate her on the new position, but also asking for the government’s dental recovery plan.

Specifically, BSPD would like to know that Victoria Atkins MP will support measures to reduce the sugar content in drinks and food marketed to children. 

Paula said, “We remain hopeful that the new secretary of state for health and social care will act on what is best for children’s health. In April 2023, the Conservative Party promised to share a dental recovery plan and we had hoped that there would be an announcement at the recent conference. However, our members still wait to hear what is planned to support children and young people’s oral health both in the immediate future – and long-term.

“In the run-up to a potential general election we need clarity around the plans for oral health from all parties.  What we need to hear from Victoria Atkins MP, as a matter of urgency, is a serious plan that demands measurable outcomes, to grip the immediate crisis and set NHS dentistry on the path to recovery in the long-term.”

BSPD reminded the new health secretary that the Labour Party recently presented their plan which included a commitment to deliver a supervised toothbrushing scheme to target three to five-year-olds in the twenty percent most deprived areas in England, which was warmly received by BSPD members. Based on the CORE20 part of the CORE20PLUS5 CYP initiative, this costed and funded proposal would see children attending schools and nurseries in areas of socioeconomic deprivation receiving supervised toothbrushing and a supply of toothbrushes and toothpaste to take home.

The society also asked for reassurance that despite recent media reports about a possible conflict of interest (The Times “Victoria Atkins: meet the new health secretary and her sugar boss husband”), there is no risk of such a conflict. 

The blueprint lists the following 10 steps:

  1. Every child and young person (CYP) should have a ‘dental home’
  2. Deliver a Dental Check by One (DCby1) before every baby’s first birthday
  3. Support vulnerable groups (asylum-seeking children, looked after children and those in poverty) by expanding supervised toothbrushing schemes in early years settings, community water fluoridation and increasing the free school meals offer
  4. Drive an equitable recovery of general anaesthetic(GA) services
  5. Enable effective and funded Managed Clinical Networks (MCN) 
  6. Oversee true integration of oral health, with initiatives such as Mini Mouth Care Matters (MMCM)
  7. Ensure targeted, evidence-based intervention for vulnerable groups such as looked after children, CYP with learning disabilities and/or neurodiversity
  8. Upskill and contractually enable Primary Dental Care Practitioners to provide evidence-based interventions using schemes such as Child Friendly/Focused Dental Practices (CFDP)
  9. Support and develop the whole oral healthcare team
  10. Expand the paediatric dental workforce – including provision of Tier 2 services and recruiting community-based specialists and consultants