Monthly column: slow death of dentistry over last 13 years is Ghost of Christmas Future for NHS

Dentist with child Image Dmytro Zinkevych Shutterstock
Image: Dmytro Zinkevych/ Shutterstock

It is another extremely difficult winter for the NHS as it struggles to cope with the 7.7m backlog, flu and Covid surges and the junior doctors strikes without the beds and the staff that they desperately need to cope.

As people continue to struggle to access GP appointments and encounter long waits to access emergency medicine and routine patient care, even more people are unable to access NHS dental care.

The collapse of NHS dentistry has left millions of patients unable to get an appointment when they need one. Around 91.3% of dental practices in the Eastern region are not taking on new NHS adult patients.

We have all read about the horror stories of people forced to pull their own teeth out, with 1 in 10 Brits claiming to have attempted their own dental work.

In 2022, just over 40% of adults who wanted an appointment in the Eastern region were seen by an NHS dentist in 2 years and just over 45% of children.

Dental pain and tooth extraction are the main reasons children present to A&E.

The slow death of dentistry over the last 13 years is the Ghost of Christmas Future for the NHS, if the Conservatives are gifted a fifth term: those who can afford it going private and those who cannot left with an extremely poor service.

We must not let this happen. Labour’s dental rescue plan will address the immediate crisis providing 700,000 more urgent dental appointments and recruiting new dentists to areas most in need.

We will get schools providing supervised toothbrushing for kids up to the age of five, to prevent tooth decay.

And we will reform the NHS dental contract so that, over the long term, everyone who needs an NHS dentist can get one.

This policy package will cost £111 million per year, and we will pay for it by abolishing the non-dom tax loophole because people who live and work in Britain should pay their taxes here.

Chronic underfunding and the current NHS dental contract are to blame for long-standing problems with burnout, recruitment and retention in NHS dental services.

Hospitals also have fewer beds than a decade ago. One in seven beds across the country are occupied by patients declared well enough to go home, but who are unable to because there is no social care infrastructure in place.

We did not have an annual winter crisis when Labour was last in government because we delivered both the investment and reform needed.

Labour has a fully funded, NHS-backed plan to ramp up weekend appointments and train thousands more nurses including district nurses so we can clear the backlog and help give people their lives back.

Thank you to everyone who works in the NHS, and all those who work to keep the public safe during the festive break. I wish them and everyone in Bedford and Kempston a joyful and peaceful Christmas as possible. See you in the New Year.

This is a monthly guest column provided by
Mohammad Yasin, Labour MP for Bedford & Kempston.
It is published unedited and does not
reflect the views of the Bedford Independent.

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