When I got to the House of Commons in 2015, dentistry was one of the first things I raised with Alistair Burt – the then Health Minister. To be fair, things have changed since then; they have actually got a lot worse.
The reality is that it is impossible for most people in my constituency to get on an NHS waiting list.
We must be honest with the public: either we open the gates so that more people can access treatment, or we tell them that dentistry is for some people and not for others.
The Father of the House (Sir Peter Bottomley) said that it would be helpful to be able to search for availability in each of our constituencies.
I agree, but I know exactly what it would say for my constituency, because this morning I checked across North Yorkshire – which is larger than my constituency – and there is simply no availability on NHS waiting lists.
It has been like that for most of the seven years I have been in Parliament.
The pity is that I have dentists who will accept NHS patients, but they just cannot get the units of dental activity. There is a real impasse between the issues and our honesty in saying whether NHS dentistry treatment is available in our constituencies.
Of course, that has real-world effects, and I will read from a couple of emails.
A Mrs Weston wrote to me this morning: “My son, an adult with special needs… is on universal credit and PIP, and he has to pay for private treatment as we cannot get on an NHS list…
“He has had to have a tooth removed because of an abscess, something that could well have been avoided if he had had regular check-ups.”
Even worse than that, a lady from Rillington wrote: “My daughter has a toothache and needs to see a dentist… Our dentist ceased providing NHS services and there is nowhere else we can get into… They advised us to ring 111… and we were told a dentist would get back to us within seven days.
“No one did. Tonight we rang again. We were on hold for two hours before we got through to the Yorkshire and Humber Dental Services, who told us they have no capacity to help.”
This is simply unacceptable.
The key thing that I want to highlight is commissioning.
In my constituency, the NHS dentist on Bondgate in Helmsley closed totally in September 2020.
It will not reopen until April 2022 at the earliest – that is the predicted date of opening – so it will have taken 20 months for the NHS people who commission services to reopen the service, despite the fact that we had someone who was willing to take the contract right from the start.
On Kirkgate in Thirsk, it will have taken six months, so that is slightly quicker – apparently, that will open in March this year.
The contract is wrong. This “five plus two” contract, rather than a general dental services contract, deters investment and is very bureaucratic, having to be revisited consistently.
We must simplify the commissioning process. We must put a rocket up the people commissioning this – 20 months is simply not acceptable.
I agree with others who suggest devolving this stuff back to local areas: we can look after it and commission the treatment, rather than having it all done centrally by super-regional managers.
Kevin Hollinrake is Tory MP for Thirsk and Malton who spoke in a Parliamentary debate on dentistry – this is an edited version.
HEALTH Minister Maria Caulfield said in response: “Let me make a couple of points. There is no patient registration system for dentistry – that is one of the myths.
It is not like GP practices, where someone signs up and is then on the list. Patients can go from dentist to dentist if there is one available, and we are making sure that we open up capacity where it exists.
We have written to all dentists to ask them to update their capacity so that we can put it on the website, and we have also asked them to run a cancellation list. If someone cancels, the practice will be able actively to contact the next person on the list.”
Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you’ll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app, receive exclusive members-only offers and access to all premium content and columns. Click here to subscribe.