Largan Column: Improving Access to Dental Care – Quest Media Network


High Peak MP Robert Largan.

In his latest column, High Peak MP Robert Largan discusses concerns raised by local residents about registering with an NHS dentist and getting a dental appointment.

Last week in Parliament I had the chance to speak on a number of different topics including drug related crime, mental health, digital radio in rural areas, the ongoing dispute between High Peak Borough Council and Derbyshire County Council, and finally on NHS Dentistry. .

When I am outside and knocking on the doors of High Peak, concerns about access to dental care come up very regularly.

We are fortunate to have excellent dentists locally and I want to thank all of the dentists, orthodontists, hygienists and technicians who have worked incredibly hard in dental offices over the past two years during the pandemic.

Nevertheless, many local people find it difficult to get a dental appointment, or even register with an NHS dentist. I experienced this first hand, finding it very difficult to register with an NHS dentist near my home in Glossop.

A recent response to a freedom of information request from the British Dental Association indicated that 70% of appointments, or 28 million treatments, have been missed in England since the start of the pandemic. Closing this backlog is essential.

The government is investing an additional £50m in NHS dentistry, including nearly £9m for our region, to help patients access dental care and catch up. But beyond the short term, more action is needed to improve access to dental care.

Part of the problem is that there simply aren’t enough dentists. We need a serious effort to improve both recruitment and retention of dentists. The government is wisely setting up new dental development centers to train more dentists, focusing on areas where there are shortages. But we should also re-examine the recognition of dental qualifications overseas, to allow high quality dentists from other countries to come to the UK and help build capacity.

I know many dentists are also very concerned about the NHS contracts established by the last Labor government. Under the terms of these contracts, there is little incentive to take on new NHS patients. This needs to be fixed urgently.

Finally, more emphasis needs to be placed on preventive health care, and dentistry should be at the forefront of this effort. Dentistry is too often largely separated from the rest of the NHS. For this reason, I have called for NHS dentists to be properly represented in the governance of new integrated care systems, so that we can have a more thoughtful and concerted approach to public health.

Another preventative measure would involve fluoridation of the UK’s water supply – a safe and effective measure that has been shown to significantly reduce tooth decay over several decades.

I will continue to press for quick and decisive action to improve access to dental care.

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