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Platitudes and half-truths on NHS dentistry

"The system is on the verge of collapse and the only stakeholder that will eventually lose out is the patient.”

Shadow Minister for Dentistry Preet Gill MP offered the views of a local dentist, to a packed debate on the future of NHS dentistry.

We are grateful to all our members who have spelled out the facts to their MPs in recent days. The result was a string of horrific stories, and the Government struggling to defend its record.

“It’s easier to get your hands on Taylor Swift tickets in 2024 than it is to get an NHS dental appointment” observed Labour’s Ashley Dalton. Lib Dem Tim Farron cited cases of children in Cumbria finding it easier to travel to a war-torn Ukraine than to access NHS dental care.

Easington’s Grahame Morris even told the House how his own frail 87-year-old mother had resorted to pulling out her own teeth with pliers.

She’s not alone – several MPs cited polling showing 1 in 10 have attempted some form of DIY dentistry.

This crisis shouldn’t be a partisan issue, and Conservative MP Selaine Saxby swiftly knocked down claims this was just the fault of COVID.

“When I moved to Devon six and a half years ago, it took me two years to find an NHS dentist” she said, “and then I had to travel 45 minutes to get there.”

What we needed from government was some honesty. Sadly, all we heard were big ambitions, but no plan to deliver on them.

The responses proved so predictable that we even circulated bingo cards to MPs. Players only fell short of a full house given ministers avoided trying to defend the indefensible - on promised ring fences for NHS budgets that have already been torn down.

In a bizarre move ministers even attempted to compare NHS dentist numbers today, to those in 2010, just to try and sidestep the collapse since lockdown.

The facts are a Recovery Plan pledged last Spring remains undelivered, and the Government has rejected the key recommendation from the Health and Social Care Committee – to make a clean break from the discredited contract fuelling the exodus from the workforce.

“Today, when we needed clarity, the Government provided a full gamut of platitudes and half-truths,” said Eddie Crouch.

“Ministers keep saying they want an NHS dentist for everyone. There is still no evidence of any plan to make that happen.”

It’s an election year, and we are working to keep the spotlight on the crisis in this service. We will keep pressing for the real reform and fair funding our members and patients deserve.