Lack of dentists in part of Norfolk 'simply not good enough', MPs told
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Access to NHS dental treatment has worsened since an MP warned west Norfolk constituents were being told they would have to register with a practice in Skegness.
North West Norfolk MP James Wild raised the issue during his maiden speech in Parliament on January 19, 2020.
Almost a year to the day later, Mr Wild warned matters had not improved, as MPs debated the impact the coronavirus pandemic had had on dentistry.
"Access to dentists in North West Norfolk, particularly for children, was one of the issues that I raised in my maiden speech, when I reported that constituents were being advised to register in Skegness," said Mr Wild.
"Prior to Covid, my constituency had the highest population per dentist across Norfolk and Waveney.
"West Norfolk was the second lowest area for dental activity actually delivered in the country, with only 65pc of contracted activity carried out, and it had the highest percentage of patients who were unsuccessful when trying to get an NHS dental appointment. That was before Covid."
Mr Wild said provision in north west Norfolk was "simply not good enough" and he had raised the issue with the NHS East of England commissioning group to underline the need for improved access. The situation has worsened since November, when My Dentist closed its branch in King's Lynn.
"What my constituents really want is a commitment to short-, medium- and long-term improvements, so they can actually see a dentist," he added. "My Dentist in King’s Lynn High Street closed in November, and the money for that should be used to recommission services locally.
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"Prior to Covid, the NHS planned to open another practice by the summer and to issue a procurement exercise offering in-perpetuity contracts, which should be more attractive to providers in the long term.
"Understandably, those plans are now on hold, which is disappointing for my constituents."
Jo Churchill, parliamentary under-secretary for health and social care, told MPs: "My personal view is that a transformation in dentistry is necessary, particularly if we are to address the challenges that the pandemic has highlighted and the inequalities, particularly around children’s oral health.
"I wish to see a change in the way we approach dentistry and oral health."