Prime Minister RIshi Sunak met staff and patients at Gentle Dental in Newquay, Cornwall but he wouldn’t say whether he could guarantee everyone access to an NHS dentist
A dental practice visited by Rishi Sunak in Cornwall is not actually accepting new adult NHS patients, it can be revealed.
The Prime Minister met staff and patients at Gentle Dental in Newquay where he boasted he was taking “very significant” action to end the crisis in dentistry. But it has emerged that the practice has closed its books to new patients over the age of 18.
Mr Sunak also did not say whether he could guarantee everyone access to an NHS dentist.
More than 12million people were unable to get dental care last year – more than 1 in 4 adults in England. At the same time 90% of dental practices are no longer accepting new NHS adult patients. The Mirror is campaigning to get dental access for all as millions are unable to get appointments to get their teeth checked.
Downing Street is refusing to say whether the super-rich PM actually uses an NHS dentist himself.
The Prime Minister used his visit to Cornwall to promote plans that will see dentists offered cash to take on new patients and given £20,000 “golden hellos” to work in under-served communities. But experts have warned it will not go far enough and accused Rishi Sunak of failing to deliver on the pledge he made to “restore” NHS dentistry when he was running to become Tory leader.
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Speaking this morning, Mr Sunak said: “It hasn’t been easy enough for people to access NHS dentistry over the past couple of years, particularly as a result of the impact of the pandemic which hit dentistry services harder than almost anything else because they were the hardest things to continue in any form during Covid.
“The announcements this week will make a significant difference and quickly. Two and a half million more NHS appointments to get levels back up to where they were pre Covid, attracting dentists to work in underserved areas. This will be particularly valuable in areas like the South West where I am today.
“Mobile vans going into underserved communities as well. Taken together, it’s a very significant new investment in dentistry so that everyone can get the access that they need.”
Mr Sunak said his dental plan was part of a broader effort “to bring down waiting lists across the NHS”.
But Labour accused the Government of failing to tackle the issue of waiting times. “People are waiting longer for NHS treatment than ever before, and waiting lists are 400,000 longer than when Sunak became Prime Minister,” shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said.
“The last Labour government cut the maximum waiting time from 18 months to 18 weeks. After 14 years of Conservative vandalism of the NHS, more patients wait longer than 18 weeks than ever before, and the number of patients waiting 18 months has doubled in the past few months. Things are getting worse and worse.”
British Dental Association Chair Eddie Crouch said: “Rishi Sunak is seeing what life is like for millions across this country. The difference is he has options. The PM won’t have to queue around the block to get an appointment. He won’t face travelling hundreds of miles for care. He’ll never find himself reaching for a set of pliers. The paucity of the Government’s plan means many patients will keep facing these horrific choices.”
The Prime Minister’s spokeswoman later said it had been a “deliberate choice” for him to visit a practice that is not accepting new patients. “[He was] wanting to speak to a surgery to hear from them about the challenges that they’re facing so that they can take on more NHS patients,” she said.
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Sign our petition to save NHS dentistry and make it fit for the 21st century
Our 3 demands
Everyone should have access to an NHS dentist
More than 12 million people were unable to access NHS dental care last year – more than 1 in 4 adults in England. At the same time 90% of dental practices are no longer accepting new NHS adult patients. Data from the House of Commons Library showed 40% of children didn’t have their recommended annual check-up last year.
Restore funding for dental services and recruit more NHS dentists
The UK spends the smallest proportion of its heath budget on dental care of any European nation. Government spending on dental services in England was cut by a quarter in real terms between 2010 and 2020. The number of NHS dentists is down by more than 500 to 24,151 since the pandemic.
Change the contracts
A Parliamentary report by the Health Select Committee has branded the current NHS dentists’ contracts as “not fit for purpose” and described the state of the service as “unacceptable in the 21st century”. The system effectively sets quotas on the maximum number of NHS patients a dentist can see as it caps the number of procedures they can perform each year. Dentists also get paid the same for delivering three or 20 fillings, often leaving them out of pocket. The system should be changed so it enables dentists to treat on the basis of patient need.
Have you had to resort to drastic measures because you couldn’t access an NHS dentist? Are you a parent struggling to get an appointment for a child? Email [email protected] or call 0800 282591