In an interview with BBC Radio Devon, Rishi Sunak was challenged over messages from listeners who are being forced to pay for private dental care due to lack of NHS dentistry
Rishi Sunak was confronted on air over the struggles of a single mum trying to access an NHS dentist.
In an interview with BBC Radio Devon, presenter Michael Chequer challenged the Prime Minister over messages from listeners who are being forced to pay for private dental care.
“I wonder if you get the scale and the anger and the worry about access to dentistry, particularly in Devon, in the South West,” the presenter said.
It comes as more than 100,000 people signed a Mirror petition demanding fair access to dentists for all.
One woman, Sharon, had been unable to get a register herself or her 19-year-old daughter for an NHS dentist and was being forced to use a private one. “I don’t know what to do in a dental emergency,” she told the programme.
Sign our petition HERE to save NHS dentistry and make it fit for the 21st century
The presenter also played Mr Sunak a clip from listener, Rachel, whose dentist went private last year. She said: “I am a very proud being a single mum that I can hold my own financially.
“But in this climate I have had to take out a credit card for emergency purposes and unfortunately, if I needed dental treatment, that would be an emergency situation. It would have to go on the credit card.”
Mr Sunak said: “That’s exactly why I came to the South West to talk about dentistry because I know it’s been a particular challenge here. We announced these plans this week, I really think they will make a difference.”
He brushed off criticism of his new dental plan from the British Dental Association, telling the station: “Everyone will have their views, I’m confident that it will make a difference. It’s a significant amount of money. It’s two-and-a-half million appointments, which will take us back to pre-Covid levels.”
The Government unveiled a dental recovery plan to hike the minimum amount paid to dentists for NHS treatments from £23 to £28 for practices receiving below this rate. Dentists who set up practice in areas of England with little access to NHS care will be offered a £20,000 bonus.
But dentists slammed the “sticking plaster” plan – and Health Secretary Victoria Atkins refused to rule out whether it could mean more budget cuts.
Save NHS Dentistry petition
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