Tracy Brabin MP has spoken out in Parliament about poor access to NHS Dentistry in Kirklees.
Speaking during an Adjournment Debate secured by her colleague Judith Cummins, the MP for Batley & Spen raised her concerns about child oral health in Kirklees. She said;
“Does my hon. Friend agree that it is deeply worrying that 29% of five-year-olds in Kirklees have decayed, missing or filled teeth, and that in March 2017 NHS Digital told us that one in three children in Kirklees have not seen an NHS dentist for the past 12 months?”
There is a clear disparity between the oral health of children in Kirklees, and in Jeremy Hunt’s constituency. Just 8% of children in the Health Secretary’s constituency have decayed, missing or filled teeth compared to 29% in Kirklees.
This debate follows a recent BBC investigation which found that just 3 practices within the BD postcode are accepting new adult NHS patients, and just 7 accepting new child NHS patients. Meanwhile, in the WF postcode just 6 practices were found to be accepting new adult NHS patients, whilst just 12 were accepting child patients.
MP for Batley and Spen and Shadow Minister for Early Years, Tracy Brabin said:
“People in Batley & Spen are suffering due to poor access to NHS dentistry, and that’s unacceptable.
“Poor oral health can not only result in health problems, but it can also affect peoples’ ability to get a job or a promotion.
“I want every child in Batley & Spen to have the best possible start in life, and I want every adult to be able to get on without their oral health holding them back. That’s why I call on Government to listen carefully to my proposals for a new oral health strategy. It’s time to make access to NHS dentistry a priority.”
The full text of the speech that Tracy Brabin had intended to deliver, but was unable to owing to time constraints, is as follows:
I am ambitious for my constituents.
I believe that their health, their career prospects and progression should never be hindered by a lack of access to NHS dentistry.
We know that regular access to an NHS dentist is key to prevention, and we also know that poor oral health can affect peoples’ ability to secure a job, and get on in life.
A survey by YouGov for the British Dental Association found that 6 in 10 people in Yorkshire and the Humber feel applicants with poor oral health would be at disadvantage securing a job.
I’ve been unable to find a single practice in Batley & Spen accepting new NHS patients.
In fact, in March 2017, 44% of adults in Kirklees had not seen an NHS dentist in the past 2 years.
Meanwhile, just last week BBC Look North aired a report in which a couple from Kirklees explained that due to an inability to access NHS dentistry, they had resorted to taking a combination of alcohol and paracetamol, and removing their own teeth.
This should not be happening in 21st century Britain.
The Minister will be aware of my belief in the importance of giving children the very best start in life.
I am therefore deeply troubled that Kirklees has high rates of tooth decay amongst children, and 29% of 5-year-olds have decayed, missing or filled teeth.
In fact, in March 2017, NHS Digital figures told us that 1 in 3 children in Kirklees have not seen an NHS dentist in the past 12 months, despite NICE recommendations that they receive a check-up every 6 months.
And, in 2014/15, 762 children in Kirklees were admitted to hospital for multiple tooth extractions, a majority of which were due to severe tooth decay, whilst 2,500 children have undergone a general anaesthetic over the last 4 years for extractions due to tooth decay. This is both heartbreaking and avoidable.
So what can we do?
I would put the following suggestions to the Minister as steps towards a renewed oral health strategy.
First, look at implementing a new NHS dental contract with particular consideration given to the Steele report.
Second, look to reduce the cost of patient charges which act as a barrier to low earners accessing treatment.
Third, communicate to parents that dentistry for children is free given that many parents are unaware, and finally require practices to update their profiles on the NHS choices website as out of date information causes confusion.
Ultimately, investment now in access to NHS Dentistry will save time and money in the future.