Conor McGinn, Labour MP for St Helens North, has called on Health Ministers to swiftly “fill the gaps” they have allowed to form in NHS dentistry, and act to help local dentists ensure residents can access the routine and urgent dental care they need.
Mr McGinn’s intervention comes as a growing number of his constituents, as well as local dental professionals, have contacted him on the issue.
They have outlined heart-rendering experiences of their struggles to access, or even register for, NHS dentistry, while practitioners have communicated the rocketing caseloads and challenging wider conditions they now face.
In May, a major report released by the Association of Dental Groups (ADG) laid bare the crisis of access to NHS dentistry nationally, warning that “dental deserts” had formed across the country where residents had no realistic chance of securing appointments.
This, it said, was in large part shaped by an exodus of over 2,000 NHS dentists across England last year – leaving an estimated 4 million people without care nationwide.
Whilst St Helens CCG was not mentioned in the ADG report, the latest figures from NHS Digital, published August 2021, showed it experienced a 16.6% fall in the number of dentists with NHS activity last year – a fall from 145 in 2019/20 to 121 in 2020/21.
Amid growing calls for Government to tackle the crisis, Mr McGinn has spent months raising these matters in Parliament with Health Ministers, tabling several written questions as early as June 2021.
The St Helens North MP paid tribute to the NHS and reiterated his gratitude for those NHS dentists in St Helens Borough working hard in increasingly demanding circumstances.
He urged Conservative Ministers to support them and get a grip on the situation – and vowed to keep campaigning on their and residents’ behalf, until proper support, to deliver the essential care local people needed, was given.
Commenting, Conor McGinn MP said:
“Hard working NHS dentists and residents in St Helens Borough are being let down by a Conservative Government that has shamefully allowed gaping holes to form in our NHS dentistry provision.
“Many constituents have contacted me frustrated by long waits and barriers to securing check-ups, registration and urgent appointments, while local dentists have conveyed to me the impossible position they’ve been put in by dwindling resources and rocketing caseloads. The situation is unacceptable.
“Ministers must get a grip on this mess of their own making and quickly fill the gaps. I’ll keep fighting for our dentists and NHS alongside local health leaders to ensure they get the support needed to deliver care for all our residents.
Read the full story in the St Helens Star here.