Alex accuses Tories of running NHS dentistry into the ground as it emerges tooth decay forced 1095 patients to A&E at across Teesside last year

Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham has accused the Conservative Government of running NHS dentistry into the ground as it emerged that 1095 people were forced to attend A&E at both North and South Tees NHS Foundation Trusts last year due to dental decay.

Across the Trusts in 2022/23, 885 patients unable to get an NHS dental appointment were seen in A&E with a dental abscess, caused by tooth decay, and 210 with dental caries.

Across the country last year, 67,000 patients attended emergency departments with tooth decay. 

The number of patients attending A&E with dental decay speaks to the alarming decline of NHS dentistry. Analysis of patient survey data suggests that 4.75 million people across England were denied an appointment with an NHS dentist in the past two years with millions people were either told no appointments were available or that the practice they contacted was not taking on new patients.

The lack of access to dental healthcare has forced many people to A&E with worsened conditions with tooth decay being the most common reason for children aged 6-10 to be admitted to hospital. 

Alex, who successfully secure two new NHS dental practices and £1 million of capacity funding for Tees-based dental services in 2019, said:

“A decade of Tory mismanagement of NHS dentistry has resulted in millions of people being denied an appointment with an NHS dentist when they need it. Across Teesside, hundreds of patents are being forced into A&E with tooth decay, as they have nowhere else to turn and my office is inundated with people unable to secure a dental appointment – not helped by the fact that yet another dentist in the area has gone private.  

“Labour will rescue NHS dentistry from this Tory-made crisis, so people can get an appointment when they need one. We will provide 700,000 more appointments a year to those in the most urgent need and recruit more dentists to areas with the worst shortages.” 

Labour has pledged to provide an extra 700,000 urgent dentists appointments and reform to the NHS dental contract, as part of a package of measures to rescue NHS dentistry.

Labour’s NHS dentistry plans include:

  • Funding NHS dental practices to provide 700,000 more urgent appointments, for patients in need of things like fillings and root canal.
  • Incentives for new dentists to work in areas with the greatest need, to tackle the emergence of ‘dental deserts’ where no NHS dentists are taking on new patients
  • Supervised toothbrushing in schools for 3–5-year-olds, targeted at the areas with highest childhood tooth decay
  • Reform the dental contract to rebuild the service in the long-run, so NHS dentistry is there for all who need it

The plans will cost £111 million a year in total and be funded by abolishing the non-dom tax status, which allows people who live and work in Britain to pay their taxes overseas.