MPs write to Matt Hancock as research reveals worst-hit constituencies for access to dentists

New analysis is authored by a former aide to the Health Secretary

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been urged to take immediate action to deal with a developing crisis in dentistry by MPs in some of the worst-hit areas of the country.

Fourteen MPs have signed an open letter to the Health Secretary on the back of new analysis projecting that around 8 million people across England will be waiting for NHS dental treatment this Christmas.

The research has been produced by the Association of Dental Groups, who commissioned Matt Hancock’s former special adviser Richard Sloggett to conduct an independent ‘state of the nation’ report on access to dentistry.

It has emerged that the worst-hit constituency is Manchester Central, where 19,510 people are projected to be waiting for NHS dental treatment this Christmas.

Leeds Central is the second worst-hit constituency. London also fares badly with 10 of the capital’s constituencies in the top 20 worst-hit list.

Among the signatories to the letter to the Health Secretary are:

– Hilary Benn (Leeds Central, 18,554 people waiting to see a dentist)
– Margaret Hodge (Barking, 16,483 people waiting)
– Kim Johnson (Liverpool Riverside, 16,132 people wating)
– Bob Seely (Isle of Wight, 15,445 people waiting)
– Rebecca Long Bailey (Salford and Eccles, 15,000 people waiting)
– Janet Daby (Lewisham East, 14,419 people waiting)
– Apsana Begum (Poplar and Limehouse, 14,150 people waiting)
– Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hill North, 13,598 people waiting)

In the report, called “30 years of hurt”, Mr Sloggett notes that restrictions on the flow of people that can be seen in dental surgeries due to the pandemic are quickly making access a huge problem. He points out that the root cause is that the system has been underfunded and neglected for decades:

“For 30 years, dentistry in England has been the forgotten service of the NHS. It is time for that to change.”

Commenting on the report, Neil Carmichael, Chair of the Association of Dental Groups and former Conservative MP for Stroud said:

“These figures reveal a critical list of constituencies where many thousands of people have gone without NHS dental care that they would ordinarily have received this year. It represents real suffering, which is why MPs are now calling for simple measures to boost dentistry recruitment and tackle the huge backlog of need that has been building up in 2020.

“Even when the Covid restrictions are lifted, dealing with this will take months. We need urgent action now to draft in more dental professionals to tackle the crisis.”

The letter asks the Health Secretary to tackle the dentistry crisis by taking three key steps to accelerate dentistry recruitment. They are:

Boosting training: increasing the number of placements in England along with incentives to work in areas with greater staff shortages and poorer patient access;

Maintaining routes for overseas professionals to fill short term gaps: because it takes five years to train a dentist, for the short term, automatic recognition of EU dentistry qualifications should be maintained after Brexit. Recognition of dental qualifications from good schools outside the EEA should also be extended.

Boosting retention of NHS dentists: Many NHS dentists are leaving the sector or moving to private practice due to dissatisfaction with the current NHS dental contract. Government needs to look into this urgently and open up a process of reform.