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NHS Dentists (Chesterfield)

Volume 512: debated on Tuesday 29 June 2010

3. If he will take steps to increase the number of dentists providing NHS services in Chesterfield; and if he will make a statement. (4461)

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government have committed to improving access to NHS dentistry, and the introduction of the new dental contract, focusing on achieving good dental health and increasing access to NHS dentistry, will be vital.

I thank the hon. Lady for her response. The Stubbing Road medical centre is a brand-new building in Chesterfield providing doctor services to people who are among the most deprived in Derbyshire. One floor there was also meant to provide dental services, but in the last week we have been told that that might not—indeed, that it will not—go ahead, although the primary care trust is paying the rent on the building and its new suite. Can the hon. Lady assure the people in the Rother ward who have been waiting so long for those services that the guarantee that everyone in Chesterfield will have access to an NHS dentist by March 2011 will remain in place?

I cannot comment on the specific circumstances, but I would be happy to meet the hon. Gentleman if he would like. I must point out to him, however, that the number of people now seeing an NHS dentist remains lower than when the previous Government introduced the new contract in 2006. He mentions children, but there is no doubt that the inequalities in the oral health of children are scandalous.

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will apply the ingenuity required to stay within the terms of a question relating to Chesterfield.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. Given my declared interest, it was too great a temptation not to contribute.

Does my hon. Friend not agree that for dentists, the biggest disincentive to providing an NHS service in Chesterfield—and, in fact, in the rest of England too—is the contract that she just mentioned, with its targets, its “units of dental activity”, its clawbacks and so on? Will she ensure that any new system that she introduces enables and encourages dentists to offer a choice between national health and private dentistry, thus encouraging those who have opted out to opt back in again?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question—he speaks eloquently and with much knowledge on this subject—and for highlighting the perverse incentives in the contract. It is absolutely critical that we take those out of any new contract.