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Momentum for change in Parliament

As we continue to lobby decision makers, pressure is building in Parliament for real change in the way NHS dentistry is delivered in England.

The newly appointed Minister responsible for primary care Maria Caulfield MP had her first opportunity to address the challenges facing members in a short debate on access to NHS dentistry last night.

Ms Caulfield said dental services have too often been an “afterthought” and she was keen to give dentistry a “louder voice”, putting it on a par with GP provision and pushing it up the agenda. She reiterated the Government’s commitment to contract reform, saying she wanted “to see a contract that is attractive for professionals and that ensures equality of access for all” and said she would consider what support could be given to practices to improve ventilation.

The sponsor of the debate, the Conservative MP Dr Caroline Johnson, outlined the problems with access her constituents were facing, and urged the Minister to take steps to stop NHS dentists moving into the private sector and consider “golden hellos” to help practices recruit in rural areas. She also quoted the BDA members survey to highlight the low morale in the profession.

Having met with GDPC Chair Shawn Charlwood ahead of the debate, Dr Johnson stressed the key importance of contract reform, calling current system “dysfunctional”. She said that after a decade of pilots there could be no more delays, new arrangements must be rolled out by April 2022. She also made a case for funding for ventilation and for dentists having a voice in the new Integrated Care Systems.

Other MPs stressed the importance of access to NHS dentistry. Sir John Hayes MP highlighted the role dentists play in early detection of oral cancers. Martin Vickers MP urged the Government to commission more dental services to meet local needs in areas with growing populations.

This week also saw our concerns raised repeatedly during oral questions to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. Yvette Cooper MP challenged Sajiv Javid about the “urgent crisis” in NHS dentistry, stressing dentists were “overwhelmed” with the huge backlog they were facing. Kevin Hollinrake MP echoed her comments, pressing for increased availability of NHS dentistry, while the SNP health spokesman Martyn Day MP called for the Secretary of State to follow the SNP in committing to the abolition of all NHS dentistry charges.

With yesterday’s discussion being the fifth Parliamentary debate on dentistry in the last 12 months and with unprecedented focus on dentistry in health questions, we are pleased to see momentum for change in dentistry building in Parliament. We will continue to lobby on your behalf to push dental services up the political agenda.