[House of Commons photographer]
A call for urgent and radical action to address the dental crisis in the South West. It came from Bath MP Wera Hobhouse during a Westminster debate on the subject.
Mrs Hobhouse highlighted the startling statistics on dental care in Bath and North East Somerset, where over 105,000 adults have not seen a dentist in two years, and nearly 15,000 children were not seen by an NHS dentist last year. She stressed the importance of routine dental check-ups as a vital first line of defence against more serious problems like oral cancer and tooth decay.
The British Dental Association has warned that NHS dentistry is facing an existential threat, and Hobhouse laid the blame at the Conservative Government’s doorstep.
The Bath MP also expressed concern about the alarming rate at which staff are leaving NHS dentistry, with one in eight approaching retirement and 14% close to leaving the profession. She called for a strategy to fill the huge staffing gaps and a proper workforce plan that includes projections for dentists and dental staff.
The Liberal Democrats are calling for an NHS dental healthcare plan to ensure everyone can access affordable dental care when they need it. To start, Mrs. Hobhouse demanded the immediate investment of the money set aside for NHS dentistry, and focus on boosting the number of NHS appointments. She also called for a wholesale reform of the dental contract so dentists are incentivised to take on NHS patients.
Wera Hobhouse, Member of Parliament for Bath, commented:
“Dental care is a right which everyone in the South West and beyond should be entitled to and it is time that the Government were brought round to this fact.
“This is a national scandal and my constituents have been left to suffer. The shortage of NHS dentists means it is nearly impossible to get a dentist appointment in Bath.”
“The government does not efficiently track the number of NHS dentists either. A dentist who performs only one NHS check-up in a year would still be classified as an NHS dentist. My constituents deserve better than this disorganisation and should be entitled to know what services are genuinely available for them and their families to use.”