MPs criticised for toothless enquiry

A parliamentary select committee refuses to ask patients to give evidence as campaigners say ministers are asking the wrong questions

Hero image

A parliamentary select committee has been criticised for refusing to ask patients to appear before its inquiry into NHS dentistry.

Toothless in England wants the government to act urgently to revive dental services, which have collapsed in many neighbourhoods.

When the BBC last year contacted nearly 7,000 NHS practices – believed to be almost all those offering general treatment to the public – it discovered that nine in 10 NHS dental practices were not accepting new adult patients for NHS treatment.

MPs on the Health and Social Care Committee are currently holding an inquiry into NHS dentistry. Members are considering “to what extent the current NHS dental contract disincentivises dentists from taking on new patients … and will look at what incentives can be offered by the NHS to recruit and retain dental professionals”.

“Closed shop”

Toothless in England has submitted written evidence to the committee and requested speaking rights that would include members of the public who have suffered as a result of the lack of NHS dentists. This request was refused.

At the committee’s first hearing in March, those appearing were all professionals involved in dentistry.

Toothless in England spokesperson Dan Ross said: “We are not surprised at our exclusion as those being questioned are part of a closed shop.

“But if they want the select committee to have any integrity, they should be speaking to precisely the people on the frontline, which is campaigners and patients. By freezing these people out then they are only going to get the answers that they are expecting to get. But the problems won’t go away by asking the wrong questions to the wrong people.

“The fundamental problem is a legislative one that stretches across the party divide and which can only be resolved by more resources and restructuring dental structures.

“The crisis, which means even children in parts of Manchester don’t visit a dentist, is not the fault of NHS dentists or practices but is caused by not fit for purpose legislation introduced under the last Labour government.”

British Dental Association chair Eddie Crouch said: “We warned MPs NHS dentistry was now a sinking ship. The mass closures of practices announced in March illustrates the scale of this crisis.

“Millions have been left with no options. It’s vital that the report and recommendations that follow from the committee reflect the real urgency here and offer hope and voice to struggling patients.”

The chair of the H&SC committee, Steve Brine, MP for Winchester, said: “Access to NHS dental services is of real concern to the Health and Social Care Committee. There’s evidence of enormous regional variation in how likely people are to be able to sign up for dental treatment, meaning being forced to go private or suffer in pain.

“We heard striking evidence in our first evidence session from dental professionals and from other witnesses about the dental contract and about the recruitment, retention and training of the dental workforce.

“The views of patients will be represented in the inquiry.

“Our evidence-led inquiry will result in recommendations to government aimed at tackling the current problems experienced in NHS dentistry.”

Interact: Responses to MPs criticised for toothless enquiry

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.