MP for Beverley and Holderness, Graham Stuart, is urging Government Ministers to take steps to address issues with accessing NHS dental services in his constituency.
The call for improvements comes after a meeting with the Association of Dental Groups, at which it was revealed that Beverley and Holderness is the 30th worst-hit by the coronavirus pandemic out of 650 constituencies across the UK. The impact of Covid-19 means that Graham’s constituents will have gone without dentistry that they would ordinarily have received last year.
As a result of the meeting, Graham is highlighting the importance of bolstering recruitment and retention rates across the UK as one important way of addressing the backlog, as well as improving access to dental services in the long-term.
Graham said, “It was made very clear to me at the meeting that nationally, we are short of as many as 600 dentists a year, when you look at how many you need to ensure everyone has good access to dental treatment. Of course, this has been particularly exacerbated by this dreadful pandemic.
“Whether we invest in boosting the number of dentists being trained here in the UK, or encourage more dentists from abroad to work here, it’s obvious that steps should be taken. We do have mutual recognition of qualifications with the EU, but we don’t with other countries like our Commonwealth partners.
“Seeking this mutual recognition in the trade deals we’re negotiating now we’re outside of the EU is one thing I’ve raised with Ministers.”
All dentistry services stopped on 25th March 2020 following the introduction of lockdown measures by the Government, which eventually established around 600 ‘urgent dental care centres’ (UDCs) to provide urgent treatment. Otherwise, NHS practices were asked to provide advice over the phone, and to prescribe antibiotics and analgesics where appropriate.
Although dentists reopened on 8th June, patients faced a significant waiting list thanks to the prolonged closure, as well as a ‘fallow period’ of one hour between appointments to ensure equipment was properly disinfected and the room was ventilated. Although this fallow time has been reduced to 25 minutes for well-ventilated rooms, one Hull-based dentist says this has still reduced the number of patients seen from roughly 30-40 every day to a maximum of around 15.
The local MP’s push for better access to dentistry follows a similar campaign in 2018, when Graham put pressure on NHS England for improvements after hearing from constituents being turned away by local practices. Following further lobbying, NHS England announced almost £1 million of funding for practices in Beverley and Holderness to help them enrol up to 2,000 new NHS patients.
Graham added, “The meeting also raised the fact that funding for ‘Access to General Dental Services’ contracts is due to end from this April, which could affect over 1,500 patients in the region.
“These people are some of the most ‘high needs’ cases – people who wouldn’t ordinarily seek out any dental care – so this is something else that I am urging my colleagues in the Department of Health to consider.”