Stockton North MP, Alex Cunningham, has expressed concerns that NHS dentistry is becoming a ‘Cinderella service’, following announcements that Queensway Dental Clinic is the latest dentist to stop taking on NHS patients.
The public were given the opportunity to voice their concerns about Queensway’s move at a meeting organised by Alex, and with representatives from NHS England and the British Dental Association in attendance.
Residents heard how NHS commissioners are looking to extend some contracts with existing dentists in the short term, pending attracting other dentists through a procurement process – which could take between 9 to 12 months.
But Alex is worried that more and more dentists across the country are leaving the service to set up private practices claiming they can no longer afford to do NHS work for the fees being offered.
It is clear from what residents were saying that they are struggling to find a NHS dentist. This is purely because of the lack of capacity as a result of poor funding and dental contracts that dis-incentivise dentists from carrying out NHS work.
While I welcome the work NHS England is doing to increase that capacity, my fear is that dentistry is fast becoming the Cinderella service of the NHS – underfunded and ignored. The Government needs to assess current funding levels to make sure dentistry and dentists are sufficiently supported. If it fails to do this, then I’m fearful other dentists will quickly follow in Queensway’s footsteps.
Alex has raised his concerns about dentist contracts and the lack of capacity with the Health Secretary. At the meeting, he reiterated his fears that dentistry is an often ignored service within the NHS, the result of which means patients struggle to find NHS places and are impeded from looking after their oral health.