Recently, Luke met with over 25 dentistry stakeholders on a Zoom ’roundtable’ to discuss issues they are facing and what he can do to support them. Since being first elected as MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, Luke has been vocal about the need for increased dental services in the South West and particularly in Plymouth. He has also been involved in campaigns to improve access to dental provision and oral health, including a new Health Hub, which Luke hopes the new council will be continuing with.
However, Luke is very concerned about the ongoing dental provision, with around 17,000 currently on the waiting list for an NHS dentist.
Those in attendance agreed that whilst the situation was already challenging, the pandemic set the dental sector in Plymouth back by a huge amount, as well as highlighting and worsening oral health inequalities in the city. Huge delays mean that any progress that was being made was put on hold, including oral health improvement initiatives.
It was also agreed that there is currently an NHS dental recruitment crisis across the country, and more work needs to be done to encourage dentists to come and work in the South West and ensure that dentists from the EU are able to continue living in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme, as many dental surgeries noticed that their EU colleagues were leaving the country following the UK leaving the EU. NHS England explained that they are working on incentivising people to come down to the South West, and are also trying to look at housing issues as the shortage of housing means that whilst there may be dentists looking to move here, they are then struggling to find somewhere to live.
The South West has some of the lowest investment in dentistry in England, as you can see from the NAO report on dentistry in England here. The South West budget needs to be on parity with other regions, and Luke will continue to fight for the South West to receive our fair share of funding, so the people living here do not suffer.
NHS England explained that throughout the pandemic they have been looking at gaps in provision and what can be done to innovate and build back better in future.
Luke will continue to support dentists in Plymouth as much as possible and fight for the South West to get the funding it so desperately needs.
It is getting increasingly hard for people in Plymouth to access an NHS dentist. The waiting list is getting longer and longer and I do not get the impression there is any urgency to address the growing dental access crisis in Government. That is one reason I argued for a Super Health Hub in the city centre with more dental provision and I hope that the funding for this idea will be secured soon. But we need more funding and more focus on recruitment and retention if we are to make real inroads into that waiting list. The Government has to start taking the concerns of Plymouth people that they cannot get a dentist more seriously.