More than 27.6 million people saw an NHS dentist in the 24 months ending June 2009. That is almost 750,000 more than in the same period ending June 2008.
I thank the Minister for her answer. Paul Bason, a constituent of mine and a dentist, came to see me and told me that he has a major problem, because when someone needs a root canal operation on their teeth the current dental contract incentivises him to remove the tooth rather than to perform an operation. Does the Minister think that the contract is conducive to good dental practice?
No, I do not. We have discussed that issue and root canal work many times in the House, and I suggest that the primary care trust in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency speaks to the dentist concerned. Some root canal work is extremely complicated, so if the dentist cannot carry out the required clinical procedure, he can refer the patient to an NHS hospital, where a consultant will see them.
May I wish the Secretary of State’s father a speedy recovery?
In 1999, Tony Blair promised access for all to an NHS dentist by 2001. Since the contract was rejigged, more than 1 million people now do not have access to an NHS dentist—an increase of half a million. When will Tony Blair’s promise be fulfilled?
I believe that the hon. Gentleman will be aware of the increase in dentistry and dental practice over the past two to three years, particularly in his own area. Oxfordshire has a contract with an existing practice to provide short-term provision, initially for 500 additional patients. In Oxfordshire, the number of dentists increased from 262 in March 2007 to 309 in March 2009. I hope that I am known in the House for my caring attitude to staff and to Members. Later this afternoon, I am opening a dental practice in Horseferry road in Westminster, which I am sure that residents and people who work in this area will be able to use.
I am sure that the whole House would agree that when our armed forces come home on leave they need the best possible treatment from the NHS. Does the Minister therefore agree that it is abhorrent that when a serviceman comes home on leave and needs dental treatment he is turned away by the PCT because there is no funding stream for that treatment and sent back to barracks for treatment? Is that not wrong in the NHS in the 21st century?