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Lack of NHS dentists is ‘putting at risk Government’s levelling up agenda’ – MP

Some MPs say their constituents are struggling to access NHS dentistry (John Giles/PA)
Some MPs say their constituents are struggling to access NHS dentistry (John Giles/PA)

Problems accessing NHS dentistry provision are “putting at risk the Government’s levelling up agenda” a Conservative MP has warned.

Scott Benton said constituents “struggling to access an NHS dentist appointment” was “undermining health inequalities of the most disadvantaged of communities”.

House of Commons leader Mark Spencer insisted the Government “does understand the challenges that we face” and was providing “millions of pounds of investment into our NHS”.

Speaking during Business Questions, Mr Benton (Blackpool South) said: “Many residents of Blackpool are struggling to access an NHS dentist appointment. This is creating considerable problems for thousands of my constituents who can’t afford to access early preventative treatments.

“It’s also putting at risk the Government’s levelling up agenda by undermining health inequalities of the most disadvantaged of communities.

“Will the Leader of the House look to hold a debate in Government time on how we can best support additional NHS dentistry provision?”

Mr Spencer replied: “Of course I think it is something which is worthy of debate, that’s why the Government is putting in millions of pounds of investment into our NHS which of course dentistry is a very important part of and I’m sure as a local champion he will continue to pursue the health department to make sure his constituents get the services that they deserve.”

Mr Benton’s comments were echoed by Labour MPs, with Rachael Maskell (York Central) warning the current situation was “completely unacceptable”.

She said: “This week I’ve heard that another three NHS dentists are handing back their NHS work and will going private in the city of York. We hardly have any NHS dentists now in the city and people are not only travelling miles but they’re waiting years to see a dentist.

“This is completely unacceptable and the pace Government are addressing this is also unacceptable, so can we have an urgent statement on NHS dentistry because our constituents can’t wait and the oral health of our nation is in deep decline.”

Mr Spencer replied: “That’s exactly why we’re investing these huge amounts in our NHS to make sure we deal with the challenges within the NHS.

“She chose not support that investment, it’s a huge investment that we’re putting in along with the reforms that are coming forward.”

Labour’s Mary Kelly Foy (City of Durham) also warned of an “exodus of dentists towards the private sector”.

She said: “Many constituents in the City of Durham are being left unable to register for an NHS dentist while those who have registered are finding it really difficult to access one due to an exodus of dentists towards the private sector.

“One constituent has told me ‘I can’t afford private treatment so what can I do?’ and the British Dental Association has warned this is how NHS dentistry will die.

“Does the Leader of the House agree with me that it’s simply unacceptable that people in Durham can’t afford to access dental appointments and can I echo the call for a debate on the availability and inequity NHS dentistry?”

Mr Spencer replied: “I think I’m right in saying there is an NHS dentistry debate next week so I hope (she) will take the opportunity to engage in that debate… The Government does understand the challenges that we face. That’s why we’re putting in huge volumes of cash to support our NHS and I look forward to listening to that debate next week.”

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