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Judith demands immediate action on NHS dentistry at crisis point

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

Judith visits trainee dentists

Bradford South MP Judith Cummins has demanded that the Government act now to halt the crisis in NHS Dentistry.

Yesterday, Judith led a cross-party debate in the Commons, calling on the Government to take urgent steps to deal with chronic lack of access to NHS dentistry before it is too late.

“For the last seven years, I have spoken about the challenges, I have raised concerns, and I have sounded the alarm that NHS dentistry was facing burdens, pressures and circumstances that it simply was not equipped to handle.”

Leading the debate, Judith said that NHS dentistry was in urgent need of fundamental reform – but that calls for change had largely been ignored by Government:

“We now hear on a regular basis, from MPs on all sides of the House, from across the country, raising the concerns of their constituents who are unable to access an NHS dentist. The current system remains unfit for purpose.

In Bradford, 98% of dentists are closed to NHS patients forcing people to go to A&E or to go private, whether they can afford to or not - often taking out a payment plan because they do not have the luxury of an NHS dentist available to them.”

Research by the BBC shows that 9 out of 10 dental practices in England are not taking on new NHS patients. In Yorkshire and Humber, the situation is amongst the worst in the country – with only 2% of dental practices taking on new NHS patients.

Shocking statistics show that a child born in Bradford is eight times more likely to be admitted to hospital with dental decay before their sixth birthday than children in the former Prime Minister’s region, the East of England.

Judith stated the problem was due to dramatic cuts to funding of NHS dentistry that has fallen by a third in real terms in the last decade, and a serious issue with dentists staying in the NHS.

“We have enough dentists – but they are working in private practice. Until government fixes the problems with the NHS contract which sees highly qualified, experienced dentists squeezed out of the system, they are simply pouring more water into a bucket with a giant hole.”

Speaking afterwards, Judith said: “The situation is appalling. Many of my constituents cannot get an NHS dentist. Instead, people are waiting until they are in severe pain and in a situation where they either have to pay for urgent private care they cannot afford or they end up in A&E clogging up the system, because they do not have the ‘luxury’ of an NHS dentist. NHS dentistry shouldn’t be a luxury. It is a necessity.”

“I have called for fundamental and comprehensive reform that puts early prevention at its heart. Good oral health must not be restricted by your postcode or by your wealth. The Government knows this. I have had Minister after Minister agree that fundamental reform is needed but years on, we are still waiting for action."

“People are fed up of excuses and inaction. The Government needs to act.”

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