As Chair of the Health Scrutiny at Sheffield City Council, Councillor Ruth Milsom has commissioned a survey to better understand people’s real experiences of accessing dental services in Sheffield. This has been raised off the back of concerns about the impact of the lack of access to NHS dental care in the city.

The collapse of NHS dentistry has left millions of patients unable to get an appointment when they need one. Analysis of patient survey data suggests that last year, 4.75 million people were either told there were no appointments available or the practice wasn’t taking on new patients, when they last tried to book an appointment.

Healthwatch England has reported horror stories of people forced to pull their own teeth out, with 1 in 10 Brits claiming to have attempted their own dental work. Studies show that untreated gum disease has links with increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Ruth Milsom, Labour Councillor for Crookes and Crosspool ward and Chair of Sheffield City Council’s Health Scrutiny committee
Ruth Milsom, Labour Councillor for Crookes and Crosspool ward and Chair of Sheffield City Council’s Health Scrutiny committee

Labour’s Ruth Milsom said:

“I have commissioned this survey to gather as much information as possible about people’s real experiences of accessing an NHS dentist.

“We have all seen the horror stories of people extracting their own teeth in desperation. The fact that the largest cause of hospital admissions among 6- to 10-year-olds is tooth decay should be causing panic and urgent remedial action among healthcare leaders, but we’re not seeing that level of urgency.

“This rot comes from the top. Without the right action at Government level, no local health services will be able to take all the action we need. I hope this survey data will show the Government exactly what changes we need to improve NHS Dentistry here in Sheffield.”

The survey can be found here:

The British Dental Association have reported that tooth decay remains the most common reason for hospital admissions in children aged between 6 and 10 years – and that rates for children and young people living in the most deprived communities are nearly 3.5 times that of those living in the most affluent.

Vast parts of England are now ‘dental deserts’, where no dentists are available. In the South West, 99% of dentists have shut their doors to new adult patients, with just 4 practices welcoming new patients across the entire region. The government has launched a pilot in Cornwall where NHS dentistry will only be offered to children and the most vulnerable.

Councillor Milsom continued:

“The lack of access to routine dental services is a tangible effect of sustained austerity. The Government should have been investing in dentistry—and many other aspects of the NHS—every year since 2010.

“Instead, services across the healthcare system are breaking down, and people’s long-term health prospects put at risk.”

Nationally, Labour will introduce a dentistry rescue plan so that patients can get an NHS dentist again, as new analysis reveals the overwhelming majority of practices have shut their doors to new patients. Of the 489 dental surgeries that have provided a recent update in Yorkshire and the Humber, 415 are not accepting new adult patients.

Labour is promising to take immediate action to provide care for those in most urgent need, and long-term reform to restore NHS dentistry to all who need it. The party’s plans include:

  • Funding NHS dental practices to provide 700,000 more urgent appointments, for patients in need of things like fillings and root canal.
  • Incentives for new dentists to work in areas with the greatest need, to tackle the emergence of ‘dental deserts’ where no NHS dentists are taking on new patients.
  • Supervised toothbrushing in schools for 3-5 year olds, targeted at the areas with highest childhood tooth decay
  • Reform the dental contract to rebuild the service in the long-run, so NHS dentistry is there for all who need it

The plans will cost £111 million a year in total and be funded by abolishing the non-dom tax status, which allows people who live and work in Britain to pay their taxes overseas.

Wes Streeting, Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary said:

“The Conservatives have left NHS dentistry to wither on the vine, and now the service is barely worthy of the name. Patients in Sheffield are told to go without or do it themselves, with DIY dentistry now shockingly common in Tory Britain.

“The slow death of dentistry is the Ghost of Christmas Future for the NHS, if the Conservatives are given a fifth term: those who can afford it going private and those who can’t left with a poor service for poor people.

“Labour has a fully-costed plan to rescue NHS dentistry by gripping the immediate crisis and reforming the service in the long-term. We will provide 700,000 urgent appointments and recruit new dentists to the areas most in need, paid for by abolishing the non-dom tax status.”


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