Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats has today (26 May 2023) called on Rishi Sunak to come to the House of Commons to correct the record about the falling number of NHS dentists.
On t 19 April 2023, Rishi Sunak claimed that the number of dentists increased by 500 last year in response to a PMQ from Ed Davey. But new data from the British Dental Association (BDA) shows that the number has dropped by 700 in the last financial year.
These official figures are at odds with repeated claims from the Prime Minister that government reforms have boosted dentist numbers. The BDA understands several opposition MPs have already sought correction of the official record.
Speaking after calling on the Prime Minister to correct the official record in Parliament, Ed Davey, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, said:
“It is clear to everyone but the Prime Minister that our NHS dental system is completely broken. People cannot get an NHS dental appointment for love nor money and surgeries are shutting their doors to new patients.
“Rishi Sunak’s claim that the number of dentists is rising is completely disingenuous and false. Dentists are leaving the NHS in droves because of government inaction and delusion.
“We need proper urgent reform, not botched schemes and tweaks to a failing system as the government has brought forward.
“Liberal Democrats are calling on the government to be honest about the state of our health services and urgently invest the cash earmarked for NHS dentistry that it scandalously failed to spend last year, as well as completely overhaul the NHS dental contract so that everyone can get the care they need.”
Notes to editor
BDA shows falling numbers of dentists.
Freedom of information requests undertaken by the BDA indicate just 23,577 dentists performed NHS work in the 2022/23 financial year, down 695 on the previous year, and over 1,100 down on pre-pandemic numbers. The crash brings figures to levels not seen since 2012/13. These official figures are at odds with repeated claims from the Prime Minister, that government reforms have boosted dentist numbers. The BDA understands several opposition MPs have already sought correction of the official record.
The PM has stated time and again that 500 additional dentists recorded as delivering NHS work in the 2021/22 financial year reflect the success of recent government reforms.
Correction of the Record (check against delivery)
"On a point of order, Mr Speaker.
At Prime Minister’s Questions on the 19th April, the Prime Minister claimed that, last year, the number of dentists in England had increased by 500.
However, the British Dental Association revealed today that the number of dentists delivering NHS work has actually fallen by almost 700 in the 2022/23 financial year - meaning dentist numbers are the lowest for over a decade.
I’m sure that the Prime Minister did not intentionally mislead the house - so has the speaker had any indication from the Prime Minister that he intends to come forward and correct the record with the latest figures?"
PMQs -Wednesday 19 April 2023
Ed Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD)
Tooth decay is the No. 1 reason that children over the age of four end up in hospital. Regular dental check-ups could prevent it, but too many parents cannot get one for their child. In the East Riding of Yorkshire, there are now almost 3,000 people per NHS dentist. In places such as Herefordshire and Norfolk, fewer than two in five children have been seen by a dentist in the past year. This is a scandal, so will the Prime Minister take up the Liberal Democrat plan to end this crisis and make sure people can get an NHS dentist when they need one?
The Prime Minister
The NHS recently reformed dentistry contracts, which will improve access for patients. Dentistry receives about £3 billion a year, and there were around 500 more dentists delivering care in the NHS last year than in the previous year. I am pleased to say that almost 45% more children saw an NHS dentist last year compared with the year before.