The Department does not issue guidance specifically to NHS England on the redistribution of funding that is recouped from dental contracts. Of course, any decisions on the provision of healthcare are rightly a matter for the local NHS, because local commissioners are best placed to assess the dental needs and priorities among their local population, including the one that the hon. Gentleman represents in Bradford.
People in Bradford cannot get an NHS dentist, child tooth decay rates are soaring, and people are being admitted to hospital because they cannot get dental care. It was announced over the weekend that Bradford will receive an extra £332,000, which I of course welcome, but between 2014 and 2017, more than £300,000 was taken from dental care funding in the district. Is it not the case that the new funding is just a misleading announcement?
I think that is what is known as a back-handed welcome. We have made great progress on improving access to dentistry in England, but we know that there are parts of the country, including the hon. Gentleman’s area, in which we can do more. That is why NHS England in Yorkshire and the Humber—with which I liaise on matters raised by a number of Opposition colleagues—is finalising plans to improve access to dentistry throughout the region, paying particular attention to 20 areas. Bradford East is one of those areas and, as the hon. Gentleman said, will shortly receive additional recouped funding to support his constituents.
Why are dentists, such as my constituent Peter Sharp in Thornaby in Stockton South, funded less per unit of dental activity than his colleagues who are working in more affluent areas? Surely, to reduce health inequalities, it should be the other way round?
That goes to the heart of why we are reforming the dental contracts. Our 73 high street dental practices are continuing to test the preventive focused clinical approach to a new remuneration practice. [Interruption.] Someone on the Opposition Front Bench has just said “when” from a sedentary position. It will be when we have got it right.
The hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat) has beetled into the Chamber like a perspiring postman just in time. It is very good to see the fellow.