Lisa Nandy MP: Our plans to save NHS dentistry

​In recent weeks dentists across Wigan have contacted me to voice their concerns about the Government’s failure to lift NHS dentistry out of its current crisis and make it fit for the future.
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​The Health Secretary has said it is her goal to ensure everyone who wants an NHS dentist can access one. But local dentists tell me there are no plans in place to realise that ambition.

I know from my constituents that many people in Wigan are finding it impossible to see an NHS dentist when they need one.

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Recent figures revealed that of the 717 dental surgeries in the North West which provided an update, more than half are not currently accepting any new patients and almost 80% aren’t accepting any new adult patients.

Wigan MP Lisa NandyWigan MP Lisa Nandy
Wigan MP Lisa Nandy

This situation is repeated across the country with vast parts of England now classed as “dental deserts”. Analysis of GP Patient Survey data shows that over six million adults tried and failed to get an appointment in the last two years.

The consequences for patients are appalling with reports of people being forced to pull out their own teeth with pliers because they can’t get an appointment.

According to YouGov polling, one in 10 adults have attempted some form of “DIY dentistry”. A shocking situation in one the world’s richest countries.

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Rotting teeth is also now the number one reason young children aged six to 10 are admitted to hospital, with an average of 169 children undergoing tooth extractions every working day.

Having overseen the decline of NHS dentistry for the past 14 years, now the Government is looking at only providing NHS dentistry to children and the most vulnerable, with those who can afford it going private and those who can’t left without care.

Dentists tell me we spend the lowest share of our health budget on dentistry of any European nation and say the current NHS dental contract is driving colleagues out of the NHS every day.

A recent survey of NHS dentists found that almost 40% were likely to quit the NHS due to “intolerable” pressures in the next five years.

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Despite ministers pledging to introduce a “dental recovery plan” last April it is yet to materialise and the Government has offered little more than tweaks to a failed system.

Labour has a real plan to rescue NHS dentistry from this crisis. We will take immediate action to provide care for those in most urgent need and make long-term reforms to restore NHS dentistry for all.

Our plan will provide 700,000 more urgent appointments for patients in need of treatments like fillings and root canals. We will give incentives to new dentists to work in areas with the greatest need.

We will get schools providing supervised toothbrushing for kids up to the age of five, to help prevent tooth decay. And we will reform the out-dated dental contract to shift the focus to prevention, retain NHS dentists and reinstate the requirement for patients to be registered with an NHS dentist.

The crisis in NHS dentistry cannot be ignored any longer. Labour’s plan will save NHS dentistry from further decay and ensure everyone gets the care they need.