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Volume 742: debated on Monday 4 December 2023


Monday 4 December 2023


Health and Social Care

Dental provision in North Devon

The petition of residents of the constituency of North Devon,

Declares that the sustained lack of dental provision in North Devon has led to critical reduction in health outcomes; notes that access to dental services has worsened since the pandemic and despite ongoing from Government Ministers, the NHS, the County Council and Integrated Care Board the situation continues to get worse, not better; further declares that to ensure that the people of North Devon’s health is not negatively affected any further, concrete steps need to be taken now to bring more dental provision our constituency.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to assist with emergency dental provision in North Devon.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Selaine Saxby, Official Report, 24 October 2023; Vol. 738, c. 804.]


Observations from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Dame Andrea Leadsom):

NHS England and the Devon integrated care board are aware of the particular challenges in North Devon and are working with local dentists to enable practices to take on more NHS patients.

NHS England recently procured additional primary care dental capacity in Devon which means an increase in access to dental services for those patients who do not currently have a dentist. A dedicated helpline has been developed for Devon and Cornwall to assist patients in finding an NHS dentist for routine care and arranging urgent NHS dental treatment for people who do not have a dentist. When places become available, they are allocated to those patients who are on the helpline’s list.

The Access Dental helpline also manages out-of-hours appointments for urgent care. They allocate appointments at the weekends and on bank holidays from clinics in Plymouth, Newton Abbot, Exeter and Barnstaple. NHS Devon has recently agreed an uplift in the helpline contract, to reflect the enhanced numbers of patients seeking advice and care. In Devon, 369,393 adults were seen by an NHS dentist in the 24 months up to 30 June 2023 in the Devon integrated care board—38% of the adult population. This is an increase of 10,444 (2.9%) compared to the previous year.

NHS dentists are required to keep their NHS.UK profiles up to date so that patients can find a dentist more easily. Patients can approach any NHS dental practice and request care regardless of geographical location. If a patient’s dental condition changes or deteriorates, they are advised to contact NHS 111 for assistance.

The Government are taking significant steps to improve access for dental patients across the country. In July 2022, we announced an initial package of dental system reform to ensure that dentists are more fairly rewarded for the NHS care that they deliver. However, we know that we must go further to address the remaining challenges facing NHS dentistry across the country. Our dentistry recovery plan, to recover and support NHS dentistry, will be published shortly, to build upon the first package of reforms.

As set out in the “NHS Long Term Workforce Plan”, we are going to increase dentistry training places by 40% so that there are over 1,100 places by 2031-32. To support this ambition, we will expand places 24% by 2028-29, taking the overall number that year to 1,000 places.


A5 Traffic Volume Hockliffe

The petition of the residents of the village of Hockliffe,

Declares that the unacceptable volume of traffic now using the A5 trunk road through the village of Hockliffe endangers the health, safety and well being of residents and negatively impacts local businesses; further declares that Hockliffe, with over 400 homes, uniquely has the A5 trunk road passing through its centre; notes that the 2017 M1A5 link road provided relief for Dunstable but the impact on Hockliffe was greatly underestimated with over 20,000 vehicles now passing daily through the village; many of them HGVs; further notes that the 4-way traffic lights in the centre of Hockliffe cannot cope with this volume of traffic, leading to constant congestion and lengthy tailbacks in all directions, with noise and fumes from stationary traffic affecting the health and well being of residents; notes that pedestrians and motorists suffer dangers from frustrated drivers mounting pavements, racing to beat the lights or performing U turns to avoid the stationary or slow moving traffic; further notes that many M1 closures, due to accidents or maintenance, divert traffic to the A5 and this leads to gridlock through Hockliffe, day or night; further declares that Hockliffe residents often suffer sleep disruption due to HGV traffic, especially during M1 closures or restrictions that, when completed, the new A6/M1 link road, and a growing number of HGV logistics parks and new homes in the local area, will all add to an already unacceptable traffic problem affecting the A5 through the village of Hockliffe.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to convene all appropriate and necessary parties in order to find an early solution to the unacceptable traffic volume, congestion and associated dangers on the A5 trunk road through the village of Hockliffe, Bedfordshire and that this is urgently progressed.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Andrew Selous , Official Report, 14 November 2023; Vol. 740, c. 620.]


Observations from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Guy Opperman):

Thank you to my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) and residents of Hockliffe for raising this issue. On receiving this petition my officials raised the concerns with National Highways (NH). NH is aware of the issues that residents and businesses in Hockliffe have been facing over a number of years. NH began construction of the A5-Ml Dunstable northern bypass project in 2015 as part of its first five-year road investment strategy. Before the project, very high daily traffic volumes on an out-dated road design produced congestion, long delays and slower journey times on both the strategic and local road network.

The project aimed to provide a range of measures to increase capacity, reduce congestion and improve safety. The dual two-lane carriageway created a new link between the A5—western end—and the M1—eastern end—with a new junction at 11 A. The project opened to traffic in May 2017.

NH monitored the impact of this and found that in the first 12 months after opening, traffic on the A5 north of the bypass substantially increased by around 28%. The average weekly traffic count rose from 17,800 to 22,000 vehicles. These changes indicated road users were now opting to exit the M1 at junction 11a to use the A5. This was corroborated by the 28% growth that occurred on the A5 north of the link road, compared with an average annual growth of 1% before the project opened, and by the 25% increase on Sundon Road, which lies at the exit to junction 11a.

NH representatives have corresponded with my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire on this matter and have held meetings with Hockliffe Parish Council and my hon. Friend on several occasions to discuss concerns about increased traffic levels through Hockliffe. NH continues to be open to further engagement about concerns.

NH, as a direct result of interactions with residents, the parish council and my hon. Friend, has taken remedial action to improve the safety and reduce the noise disturbance caused by the traffic using the A5 through Hockliffe and has:

Resurfaced the A5 through Hockliffe (2018)

Reduced the speed limit through Hockliffe to 30mph (2020)

Introduced average speed cameras (summer 2023)

Additionally, NH no longer routinely uses the A5 through Hockliffe as a diversion route following representations made by the parish council, residents and the local MP. NH has also made agreements with Milton Keynes Council and Central Bedfordshire Council to use the A4146 and A505 on a case-by-case basis as an alternative diversion route. National Highways informs residents, businesses and the parish council of roadworks in the vicinity and provides information about relevant diversion routes.

Although NH recognises that the A5 is subject to heavy traffic use, it has no significant safety concerns about the A5 through Hockliffe being used as a diversion route if the M1 is closed. NH also does not currently have concerns about the air quality in Hockliffe. Central Bedfordshire Council is responsible for monitoring air quality at Hockliffe. While it does not specifically monitor air quality at Hockliffe, it does have a monitoring station within its Air Quality Management Area (AQMA), at Dunstable. More information can be found on the council’s website at:

There are no plans to restrict traffic movements through Hockliffe while it is part of the strategic road network, which would be the only way to achieve the desired traffic reduction. National Highways is considering the case to detrunk this section of the A5, including the section through Hockliffe, in consultation with the Department for Transport and relevant local authorities. This is part of considerations around the next road investment period (2025-30).