Labour commits to ensure NHS dentistry is there for all
The collapse of NHS dentistry under the Conservatives has left millions unable to get an appointment when they need one, including many people in Luton South and across Bedfordshire.
Constituents regularly contact me suffering significant pain as they cannot get a dentist appointment, and recent figures show only one dental practice in Luton has stated that they are accepting new adult patients, without having been referred.
Last year, 4.75 million people across the country, when they last tried to book an appointment, were either told there were no NHS Dentist appointments available, or the practice wasn’t taking on new patients. We are now faced with horror stories of people forced to pull their own teeth out, with 1 in 10 people claiming to have attempted their own dental work, and figures showing the most common reason children go to hospital is to have rotting teeth removed.
I recently met with a MD of a dental practice in Luton who told me about the work they are doing in in partnership with Luton Council, holding dental pop-up clinics to tackle high levels of childhood tooth decay. Many children attending had never seen a dentist before, whether due to the pandemic or the difficulty registering with an NHS dentist and accessing an appointment.
Dental decay is largely preventable. Yet, after 14 years of managed decline of NHS dentistry by the Conservative government, many in Luton and across the country are being priced out of good oral health. Those who can afford it go private, and those who can’t are left with a service unable to meet their needs.
Labour’s fully-costed Dentistry Rescue Plan promises immediate action to provide care for those in most urgent need, and long-term reform to restore NHS dentistry.
Labour will fund NHS dental practices to provide 700,000 more urgent appointments and incentivise new dentists to work in areas with the greatest need, to tackle the emergence of ‘dental deserts’ where no NHS dentists are taking on new patients. We will introduce supervised toothbrushing to schools across the country for 3-5 year olds, targeted at the areas with highest childhood tooth decay.
Labour will also reform the dental contract, rebuilding the service in the long-run, so NHS dentistry is there for all who need it.