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Monday, April 22, 2024

Government dental reform ‘too little too late’ for Kirklees residents, say Lib Dems

Research has shown that 200,000 children in West Yorkshire didn't see an NHS dentist for 12 months

Kirklees Liberal Democrats say the government’s plan to reform dental services is ‘too little too late’ for Kirklees residents.

The group has criticised the new NHS Dental Recovery Plan, as figures show 212,171 children across West Yorkshire had not been seen by an NHS dentist in 12 months.

This has been brought to light through research commissioned from the House of Commons Library, which estimated the number of children who weren’t seen by an NHS dentist in the year to June 2023, based on the latest data from the health service.

It shows that a staggering 39.9 percent of children had not been seen by a dentist in West Yorkshire over the 12-month period.

Furthermore, 52.9 percent of adults had not been seen by an NHS dentist in the 2 years to June 2023 across the region. This equates to 954,877 people who went without NHS dental care over the course of two years. Across England, 21,959,978 adults (52.1 percent) went without NHS dental care.

The NHS Dental Recovery Plan was announced earlier this month, which the government has claimed will support dentists in taking on new NHS patients. Supported by £200m of government funding, NHS dentists will be given a ‘new patient’ payment of between £15-£50.

The aim is to treat around a million new patients who have not seen an NHS dentist in two years or more, resulting in up to 2.5 million additional NHS dental appointments delivered for patients over the next 12 months.

Kirklees Council Image: Kirklees Council

Around 240 dentists will also be offered one-off payments of up to £20,000 for working in under-served areas for up to three years and the public will be able to see which practices in their local area are accepting new patients on the NHS website and NHS app.

However, Kirklees Liberal Democrats believe that the national plan is not ambitious enough and won’t succeed in fully resolving the crisis.

Kirklees Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Cllr John Lawson, said: “The Government’s plans are too little too late for local families who have been left waiting in pain struggling to get a dentist appointment.

“It is appalling that so many adults and children in Kirklees and across West Yorkshire are struggling to see an NHS dentist when they need to. In the case of children, we know that a lack of access to dental healthcare can disrupt their eating, sleeping and learning.

“Instead of these half-baked reforms, we need a proper rescue package for dental healthcare. That means guaranteeing access to an NHS dentist for everyone needing emergency care, boosting the number of appointments and removing VAT on children’s toothbrushes and toothpaste.”

According to the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the NHS Dental Recovery Plan has attracted criticism from some dentists and doctors who have said that it fails to tackle systemic problems that deny access to timely treatment.

The British Dental Association has said that the £200m pledged by the Government is less than half of the underspends in the budget expected this year, leaving no new money for the promised new patient premium.

Kirklees Liberal Democrats have called for urgent reform of NHS dentistry and recently presented a joint motion to council to raise the issue and demand national government intervention.

Cllr Lawson has also backed his party’s call for a dental healthcare rescue plan to boost the number of appointments, reforms to guarantee access to an NHS dentist for everyone needing urgent and emergency care, an ending of DIY dentistry and ‘dental deserts’ and the removal of VAT on children’s toothbrushes and toothpaste.

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