Bradford South MP Judith Cummins has warned the government that if it does not act now, NHS dentistry in England faces collapse.
Speaking in a debate on Access to NHS Dentistry which Judith co-sponsored, Judith told the government they were trying to solve long-term issues with short-term fixes:
“The current dental contract and under-investment makes work for dentists highly stressful and doesn’t allow them to provide the quality of care to their patients they feel they deserve. There are long-standing problems with burnout, recruiting and retention, with almost a thousand dentists leaving the NHS in England in the last financial year.”
According to the British Dental Association, over 40 million NHS dental appointments have been lost since the start of the pandemic, which amounts to a whole year’s worth of NHS dentistry in pre-COVID times.
Judith continued: “While the government has provided limited amounts of money for dentists to catch up on missed appointments, dental practices in my constituency tell me the funding is virtually unusable. It must be used by March and there is simply physically not enough time to fit these appointments in.”
However, this was an issue brewing long before the pandemic, as even before COVID, there was only enough dentistry for around half of the adult population in England to see an NHS dentist every two years.
Speaking after the debate, Judith said: “There is not a week that goes by where I don’t have someone contacting me about the lack of dentists. We’ve lost a whole year of appointments while the government is giving with one hand and taking away with the other because the government just knows the money just cannot be spent.
Yorkshire and the Humber has the worst child oral health in the country, with twice the level of tooth decay than in the East of England. In Bradford, almost a thousand children under the age of 10 had to be admitted to hospital to have decayed teeth removed under a general anaesthetic last year. That is thousands of children who are in pain while they await surgery.
We need a new deal that treats dentistry as an equal member of the NHS family and not as a Cinderella service. We must work to achieve a fully funded service where NHS dentistry is available to all. The government needs to act and it needs to act now.”