Wes Streeting takes government apart over Britain’s dental crisis as hundreds queue outside practice in Bristol

More than 12million people were unable to get dental care last year – which is more than 1 in 4 adults in England.

Wes Streeting

Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting has slammed the government over Britain’s dental crisis, as millions struggle to access NHS dentists.

Four in five dentists in England are not taking on new NHS patients and, according to analysis by the Labour party, 71.1%, are not accepting children. More than 12million people were unable to get dental care last year – which is more than 1 in 4 adults in England.

In recent days, footage has been shared widely of hundreds of people queuing in Bristol after a practice opened up its books for NHS patients, with experts warning that queues for dentists would be repeated around the country if dental practices were able to take on new NHS patients.

Wes Streeting joined people in the queue in Bristol earlier this morning.

He told BBC Breakfast: “It has just gone quarter past seven and there is already a queue of people.

“Those people have been told that the practice isn’t enrolling new patients today, but people are still queuing already on a very cold morning because they’re desperate.

“I have spoken to one woman who had to go private to get some emergency dental work – a bit of patching up with a temporary filling – she’s desperate now to get into this NHS dentists’ because otherwise she’s going to be hit with a bill of potentially thousands of pounds that she can’t afford.

“I spoke to another man who has been waiting three years without a dentist.

“The images that we’ve seen on our TV screens in recent days of people queuing around the block will resonate with millions of people across the country who are in exactly the same position after 14 years of Conservative government.

“And what the Government has announced today, much of which has been lifted from what Labour has announced, as an emergency dental rescue package will go some way to plugging the immediate shortfall, but what it doesn’t do – and what dentists are crying out for – is reform of the dentist contract so we can recruit and retain the NHS dentists we need.”

The government’s Dental Recovery Plan which was leaked early has been criticised. It sets out plans to invest £200 million in dental services, dentists being given cash to take on new patients and cash incentives to encourage dentists to work in areas which are underserved by NHS dentists.

The British Dental Association said claims that the reforms would generate “millions” of new appointments appeared to lack credibility.

“None of the modelling supporting these claims has been published,” a spokesperson said.

“The professional body is struggling to see how the whole package delivers more appointments, when most of the funding is drawn from recycling existing budgets.

“There is nothing in the plan to draw dentists back into NHS dentistry to enhance workforce capacity.”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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