625 people were forced to attend A&E at Northampton General Hospital last year due to dental decay, as patients across the country find it impossible to get an appointment with an NHS dentist when they need one.
At Northampton General in 2022/23, 510 patients were seen in A&E with a dental abscess, caused by tooth decay, and 115 with dental caries. Across the country last year, 67,000 patients attended emergency departments with tooth decay.
Access to NHS dentistry, and the cost of private care, comes up as a top issue in Northampton South every week when I speak to my neighbours. I’ve heard horrendous stories about people avoiding attending the dentist because of the cost of care. And this, of course, increases the number of people who deteriorate to a position where they have no option but to attend our overstretched accident and emergency department.
The number of patients attending A&E with dental decay speaks to the alarming decline of NHS dentistry. Our analysis of patient survey data suggests that 4.75 million people across England were denied an appointment with an NHS dentist in the past two years. People across Northampton have been told there are no appointments available, that the practice they contacted was not taking on new NHS patients or, even worse, that they’d been dropped by the practice over the period of the pandemic.
West Streeting, our Shadow Health Minister, has made fixing dentistry a top priority for the next Labour government. For Northampton, my plan to rebuild our local NHS services will rescue NHS dentistry from this crisis, so people can get an appointment when they need one.
A Labour government has pledged to provide an extra 700,000 urgent dentists appointments and reform the NHS dental contract, as part of a package of measures to rescue NHS dentistry.
Labour’s plans to restore NHS dentistry to all who need it include:
- Funding NHS dental practices to provide 700,000 more urgent appointments, for patients in need of things like fillings and root canal.
- Incentives for new dentists to work in areas with the greatest need, to tackle the emergence of ‘dental deserts’ where no NHS dentists are taking on new patients
- Supervised toothbrushing in schools for 3-5 year olds, targeted at the areas with highest childhood tooth decay
- Reform the dental contract to rebuild the service in the long-run, so NHS dentistry is there for all who need it
The plans will cost £111 million a year in total and be funded by abolishing the non-dom tax status, which allows people who live and work in Britain to pay their taxes overseas.