That 625 people were forced to attend A&E at Northampton General Hospital Trust in the last year alone due to dental decay is, I’m sorry to say, not a surprise. When we’re out knocking on doors locally, the lack of NHS dentists come up again and again.
Patients across the country find it impossible to get an appointment with an NHS dentist when they need one so it follows that people left without the care see their conditions worsen and then of course it is our hospitals that are left to deal with the consequences. At NGH Trust in 2022/23, 510 patients were seen in A&E with a dental abscess, caused by tooth decay, and 115 with dental caries.
Labour’s analysis of patient survey data suggests that 4.75 million people across England were denied an appointment with an NHS dentist in the past 2 years. The situation for children is particularly acute. Currently, tooth decay is the most common reason for children aged 6-10 to be admitted to hospital.
We just can’t go on like this. That’s why, if my party forms a government after the next election, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting has made clear that we will provide an extra 700,000 urgent dentists appointments. Labour’s plans to restore NHS dentistry to all who need it include: (i) funding NHS dental practices to provide 700,000 more urgent appointments, for patients in need of things like fillings and root canal surgery; (ii) incentives for new dentists to work in areas with the greatest need, to tackle the emergence of ‘dental deserts’; (iii) supervised toothbrushing in schools for 3-5 year olds, targeted at the areas with highest childhood tooth decay; and (iv) reforming the dental contract to rebuild the service so NHS dentistry is there for all who need it.
Unsurprisingly, when I tell people about Labour’s plan to rescue NHS dentistry, it’s welcomed. But there are so many in Northampton who need urgent dental help now – they can’t afford to wait any longer, and certainly not for as long as it might take Rishi Sunak to call the general election which he’s running scared of. The Tories should listen to the hundreds of people in Northampton who want to see the return of proper NHS dentistry and sort out the mess they’ve caused now – if they won’t, Labour will.