People “left to suffer” due to lack of dental reform - MP

Rotherham MP Sarah Champion in the House of CommonsRotherham MP Sarah Champion in the House of Commons
Rotherham MP Sarah Champion in the House of Commons
THE ongoing dearth of NHS dentists in Rotherham is leaving people needing treatment to “suffer” – and the government needs to “wake up to the crisis”.

That's the view of Rotherham MP Sarah Champion who was responding to a letter from the Department of Health and Social Care after she highlighted issues facing people across the borough in accessing treatment.

Last month the Advertiser reported on the ordeal facing David Creamer (62) who is on painkillers and on a soup-only diet after he was unable to register with an NHS dentist.

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The former miner's full top dental crown fell out in June but, after discovering his old surgery had closed, has been left unable to register with another.

After calling the NHS non-emergency number 111, Mr Creamer, who lives in Greasbrough, was supplied with a list of NHS dentists in Rotherham but none are currently taking on NHS patients.

Unable to pay privately as he is on benefits due to ill health, he says he got in touch with MP Sarah Champion “out of despair”.

Earlier this year, Ms Champion also published a survey into people's experiences of NHS services in the borough, which revealed more than a third of respondents were not registered with an NHS dentist.

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More than one in ten (11 per cent) who were registered said it had been ‘difficult’ to do so and 17.5 per cent claimed it was ‘impossible’.

Neil O’Brien MP, parliamentary under secretary of state for primary care and public health, replied to Ms Champion’s concerns to say he was “sorry to read of Mr Creamer’s difficulties”.

The government had announced changes to improve the NHS dental system in July 2022, he said, followed by further improvements in September through its “Our Plan For Patients”.

Dental practices are private businesses, some of which hold NHS contracts, and dentists’ income from NHS care is funded by contracts negotiated with the NHS, structured around “units of dental activity”.

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The value of a UDA varies across the country, said Mr O'Brien, and reflected the local market and differing costs of delivering dental treatment.

The government is also working with NHS England and the British Dental Association to “establish and implement a national minimum UDA value” to help areas with historically low rates.

He added: “We are aware that we need to go further in improving the NHS dental system,” and said DHSC was planning further reforms this year.

But Sarah Champion responded: “For decades, dentistry has been treated as an afterthought when delivering NHS care.

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“The Conservative government have had 13 years to fix this, but instead of fundamental reform we desperately need, they are just tinkering around the edges.

People in Rotherham are being left to suffer, unable to access the care and treatment that they need.

“I’ll continue to fight to make the government wake up to the crisis in dentistry that’s happened on their watch.

“I’m fed up of promises of consultations and plans – they need to deliver the care my constituents deserve.”