19 January 2023
NHS Dentists – Update

When we think of our health, too often, as a society, we neglect to consider the importance of our teeth. Dental health is a crucial part of NHS services however and it is vital that EVERYONE can access the support they need.

That’s why, conscious of the difficulties that so many of my constituents have in getting a dental appointment and often when in need of urgent care, I have been so active in campaigning for dental improvements in our region over recent months.

Amongst my efforts, back in July, I wrote to the then dental minister, Maria Caulfield MP, to raise a number of specific points that (having spoken to figures at all levels of the sector here in Norfolk) I had been told would deliver the short term benefits and improvements we desperately need to see, in addition to the more long term reforms needed to properly grasp the problems being faced and ensure they don’t occur again a few years down the line – especially the key issue that is the lack of NHS dentists in the region. Then, when the new Secretary of State entered his post in the autumn, I wrote again to share that letter and emphasise the scale of local frustrations on this matter.

I was delighted therefore to receive a response earlier this week from the new dental minister outlining some of the work the Department of Health and Social Care are doing to bring about improvements.

In September, the Government published its Our Plan for Patients, which sets out the steps being taken to incentivise dentists to do more NHS work (not just private), as well as to take on some of the more difficult cases. Since then, the Government has been working at pace to implement that Plan and, on 25th November, it has introduced legislation to amend the NHS dental contract, again to better incentivise dentists to deliver care to high-need patients through fairer remuneration and improve the NHS dental sector’s resilience – for example, by allowing greater flexibility around commission so that NHS dentists can provide extra are where they are able to.

Having included much of this in my previous letters, I’m delighted to see the Government are listening.

I also welcome news that DHSC is working with Health Education England, and others, to ensure that the Government has the necessary data to better support future workforce planning and address shortages of dental professionals in some areas and clinical specialities, through local sustainability and transformation partnerships and integrated care systems. Having added my voice to calls for a new dental school here in Norfolk so as to better provide our region with the skilled dentists it needs, this news from the Government is a positive first step.

However, more can still be done and, while I am delighted that the Government is indeed listening and taking this seriously, I remain committed to doing all I can for Mid Norfolk by raising this issue both with the local NHS and in Westminster.

To learn more about my campaign, please visit my website here.