In a debate today in Parliament, I told Ministers that shocking new figures reveal most Sheffield patients must wait more than two years to register for an NHS dentist – with more than a third of dentists closing their waiting lists altogether.
I urged Ministers to reform dentists’ contracts or face the “slow death of NHS dentistry”. I shared the desperate requests I’ve received from constituents unable to get NHS dental treatment.
One woman who wrote to me said: “My partner has been trying to get into a dentist for a check-up for around 18 months. We have rung every dentist within a 6-mile radius to be told they are not taking on NHS patients and he will need to go private.”
I also highlighted concerns from parents, sharing the experience of one mother who told me: “We’re told dental care is important and that we should get our children seen early and regularly. We moved to Sheffield in December 2020. I started to look for a dentist for our family. I’ve been on a waiting list for a year with no progress.”
Last week I met with the Sheffield Local Dental Committee, which represents local dentists, to discuss the crisis. Following the meeting the LDC commissioned a survey in which 37 dental practices responded, about half of the city’s providers.
Only one practice could offer a waiting time shorter than a year, 29% told people they would have to wait for up to 2 years, with 32% warning of waits of more than 2 years and 35% unable to add any patients to their waiting list.
The contractual arrangements imposed on dentists by the Government is forcing increasing numbers to end NHS care and that “across the country, the number of dentists providing NHS services fell from c.24,700 in 2019-20 to c.21,500 now – approaching 15% in just 2 years”.
Over recent years, access to NHS dentistry has been consistently raised in the Commons, but the Government have failed to act at every turn. They’ve mismanaged the whole sector, leaving families without access to care. They’ve failed on promises to change the funding arrangement, and cut dental spending by a quarter since 2010.
I fear that the neglect of NHS dentistry under the Conservatives will lead to a generation of children growing up without sufficient dental care, causing them more serious and more expensive problems in their futures. Ministers must act to reform dental contracts and ensure everyone can access an NHS dentist when they need one.