Yesterday in the Parliament I voted for Labour’s plan to rescue NHS dentistry.
Many people in Bristol and around the country are finding it impossible to get an NHS dentist when they need one. The consequences for patients are appalling.
Under the Conservatives, NHS dentistry is dying a slow death. Dentists are leaving the NHS in droves, and huge parts of the country are dental deserts, where no practice is taking on NHS patients.
Out of the 456 dental surgeries who provided a recent update in the South West region, 99% are not accepting new adult patients. 80% are not accepting any new patients.
In my own constituency of Bristol West, 17 dental surgeries had provided an update, and none of them are accepting new adult patients*. I hear from people almost every week who are struggling to see a dentist. This shouldn’t be the case.
Having overseen the managed decline of NHS dentistry for the past 14 years, now the government is looking at only providing NHS dentistry to children and the most vulnerable, with those who can afford it going private and those who can’t left with a poor service for poor people. Unlike the Tories, Labour believes healthcare should be available to all who need it. We will take immediate action to provide care for those in most urgent need, and long-term reform to restore NHS dentistry for all who need it.
Our plan will provide:
- 700,000 more urgent appointments, for patients in need of things like fillings and root canals.
- Incentives for new dentists to work in areas with the greatest need, to tackle the emergence of ‘dental deserts’.
- Supervised toothbrushing in schools for 3–5-year-olds, targeted at the areas with highest childhood tooth decay.
- Reform of the dental contract to rebuild the service in the long run, so NHS dentistry is there for all who need it.
The plan will cost £111 million a year and is funded by abolishing the non-dom tax status, which allows people who live and work in Britain to pay their taxes overseas.
Patients need healthcare more than the ultra-wealthy need a tax break.
*Data as of November 2023