A recent survey conducted on my website shows that residents in Stockport are crying out for greater access to NHS dental services. Over 55% of respondents said they had been unsuccessful in attempting to book dental appointments in Stockport and over 40% said they had to wait over 6 months for an appointment. Worryingly, this follows reports – drawn from Dentistry Census – that suggest the UK could lose one third of its dentistry nurses in the next two years. This is clearly a crisis.
In the last year alone, I have tabled a number of Written Parliamentary Questions on this issue, including about both the number of dental appointments that have been postponed due to covid-19 in Stockport and about how many practices stopped providing NHS services in the last few years. The answer to both was no such estimation has been made/the data isn’t held centrally. How is the Government meant to get to grips with this if they don’t even know where the problems are?
In the survey, I asked what people would do to improve dental services in Stockport. The answers were overwhelmingly similar – “Not to state the obvious but there just needs to be more dentists”, “More NHS dentists” and “More NHS dentists!” to name but a few of these responses. Speaking to Metro recently, the Chair of the Association of Dental Groups (ADG) said the same. He noted that “‘We cannot offer more people NHS treatment, or solve the problem of ‘dental deserts’ without more dentists.”
Similarly, the British Dental Association have long campaigned to build a sustainable workforce and have stated that proposed changes to dental training raises serious concerns, which could have a negative impact on both the workforce and on patient care. This is obviously concerning, and I stand with all dentists, dental nurses and NHS staff, who work so hard in difficult circumstances.
Oral hygiene has long been neglected by the Government, with DIY dentistry all the more common. But, they could seriously get to grips with this crisis by increasing the grant available for trainee dentists, launching a recruitment campaign to ensure there are adequate numbers of dental nurses, dentists and other dental staff, and properly investing in NHS dentistry. Now, more than ever, this is what is really needed.
Navendu Mishra speech on Oral Health and Dentistry (May 2021): https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2021-05-25/debates/A19097A3-1704-4109-9A39-31B826CF28D3/OralHealthAndDentistryEngland#contribution-609E37E5-90C1-4FC8-9E9E-14C1A5B0C75B