Humiliated Labour MP reminded

NHS dentists: MPs debate availability in UK

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Feryal Clark, Labour MP for Enfield North, attacked the government during health questions in the Commons because of the a crisis which has left many people without dental care. She said: “NHS dentistry is in crisis. Patients are stuck with either a never-ending wait for an NHS appointment or footing the bill for going private, which is simply not an option for most families suffering rising bills and taxes. “With a third of the population experiencing untreated tooth decay, when will this Government, who have had 12 years to do so, finally come up with some practical solutions that put patients’ needs first, rather than the half-baked, unworkable ideas we have heard to date?”

But with Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s team taking questions, Conservative health minister Maria Caulfield, a former nurse, hit back pointing out that it was Tony Blair’s Government which had created the problem.

She said: “I am sorry to the hear that tone from the honourable Lady. 

“We are working under Labour’s 2006 dental contract, and she may have missed that dentists were unable to offer any routine care during the pandemic over the last two years, which we have slowly worked up to 95 percent of usual activity.”

She also highlighted that the crisis is at its worst in Labour run Wales where the devolved Government has complete control of health.

Ms Caulfield said: “She may want to play politics with this issue, but perhaps she should speak to her Labour colleagues who run the NHS in Wales, where 6 percent of dental posts were lost last year. 

“She should get her own side in order before lecturing this side of the House.”

The issue was raised by Ipswich Tory MP Tom Hunt, one of a number whose constituents are unable to even get a basic check-up because of a shortage of dentists.

He said: “A number of my constituents are finding it impossible to access NHS dental care. They include Alison, one of my constituents who worked as a midwife in Ipswich Hospital for 40 years. 

“Some of them have contacted 40 different practices and have not got anywhere. 

“My understanding is that there has been a 30 percent drop in the number of dentists taking on NHS work in Suffolk. 

“Will the Minister explain what local work is going on between the Department and the local NHS bodies to try to ensure that this issue is addressed?”

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Meanwhile, Conservative former health minister Steve Brine offered to take his successor for a cup of tea to resolve the issue.

He said: “A pattern is emerging of a backlog and problems in accessing NHS dentistry. 

“An increasing number of constituents are contacting me having gone to their NHS dentist with an acute dental problem only to be told either that NHS patients are no longer being seen or that they have fallen off the list.

“I know the long-term answer is around the contract—I used to give that answer when I was in her seat—but will the Minister please meet me over a cup of tea so that we can try, as a starter for 10, get to the bottom of this?”

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