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Toothless in England calls for ‘dental emergency’ as Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England’s Dental Recovery Plan goes before Commons committee





Suffolk campaigners are calling for a ‘dental emergency’ to be declared as questions are raised about Government plans to tackle ongoing issues over access to NHS dentistry.

Toothless in England has warned the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) NHS England’s Dental Recovery Plan will not make ‘one iota of difference’ in meeting the needs of desperate patients.

The proposals, which aim to create more than 2.5 million new appointments per year, are being scrutinised by the House of Commons’ Health and Social Care committee today.

Toothless in Suffolk during a campaign march in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mark Westley
Toothless in Suffolk during a campaign march in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mark Westley

Mark Jones, campaign co-ordinator for Toothless in England and Toothless in Suffolk, said: “The time has come for the Department of Health and Social Care to declare a dental emergency. Haven’t patients suffered enough?”

Toothless in England was formed in 2021 with the aim of providing an NHS dentist for everyone.

Despite submitting written testimonies to the NHS dentistry inquiry and outlining the plight of those unable to access an NHS dentist, Mr Jones, of Felixstowe, said Toothless in England was denied the opportunity to present evidence in person.

Mark Jones, campaign co-ordinator for Toothless in England and Toothless in Suffolk. Picture: Mark Westley
Mark Jones, campaign co-ordinator for Toothless in England and Toothless in Suffolk. Picture: Mark Westley

The organisation was invited to a roundtable meeting on NHS dentistry at the DHSC, hosted by Andrea Leadsom, Minister for Public Health, in December.

“Westminster always says it values patient groups, but the reality is that they keep them at arm’s length”, he said.

“The Dental Recovery Plan won’t make one iota of difference in meeting the needs of desperate patients in the short, medium or long-term. We do not accept that the Government’s dental recovery plan moves fast enough, nor does it go deep enough or wide enough.

“It’s not going to lift patients out of the deep despair, anguish and pain foisted upon them by a failed oral healthcare contract designed to widen health inequalities rather than close them. This is why it’s important those in Westminster hear why we are calling on the Government to immediately declare a dental emergency.”

The DHSC’s dental plan aims to ensure everyone has access to a dentist, particularly those who have not been seen in two years, as well as a focus on prevention and good oral hygiene.

Dentists will be offered a bonus for taking on NHS patients and cash incentives will be given for them to work in under-served areas, the Government said.

However, Mr Jones said NHS dental contracts were ‘not fit for purpose’, which has resulted in dentists quitting the profession.

He said: “Their lives and livelihoods, just like the patients they once treated, have been harmed by a totally broken oral healthcare system.

“We regularly receive stories from patients who are really concerned about their oral health but cannot see a dentist on the NHS for even a simple check-up, let alone help to treat an agonising abscess, a chipped tooth or lost filling.

“DIY dentistry and little children being hospitalised to treat severe tooth discomfort continue to make headlines. Worryingly, we are seeing ever increasing numbers of patients dying from mouth cancer, a preventable disease which can be nipped in the bud if regular check-ups are made available.”