Access to NHS dentistry remains consistently high. The most recent figures show that 22 million adults were seen by an NHS dentist in the 24 months from January ’16 to Christmas last year and 6.9 million children visited a dentist last year.
Twelve thousand of those people in my constituency were left without a dentist when the Queensway practice in Billingham, in common with many dentists across the country, ditched NHS work. People are trying to build capacity there, but the funding system for dentists is a major impediment. What plans do the Government have to address the crisis in NHS dentistry, encourage dentists to stay with the NHS, and make dental health a priority?
We have been in correspondence about the Queensway practice, as the hon. Gentleman knows. When a dental contract ends and patients need to find another dentist, NHS England has a legal duty, as he knows, to commission alternative services to meet local need. I understand that that is happening in his area and that he is being kept regularly updated on the situation. In answer to a previous question, I mentioned the dental contract, which is a key part of our reforms to keep people in, and attract people into, the dental profession.
It is shameful that our older and vulnerable residents living in care homes do not have the access to dental treatment that they need. The Minister revealed in a written answer to me that older people living in care homes are less likely to have any natural teeth and are more likely to have serious tooth decay, but still no specific action has been taken. Will the Secretary of State meet me and commit to do everything he can to help prevent serious tooth decay for our older and most vulnerable residents?
As I said, NHS England has a legal duty to commission dental services and primary care dental services for the hon. Lady’s constituents. If she wants to bring a specific example from her constituency to me, I will be happy to look at it.