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‘Light at the end of the tunnel’ to fix Britain’s decaying dental industry says health minister during visit to Gosport

Minister for patient safety and primary care Maria Caulfield visits Smile Dental Care at Rowner Health Centre, Gosport. The minister is pictured with Caroline Dinenage MP, right
Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 270622-02)

Health minister Maria Caulfield said the government was weeks away from unveiling the new proposals to fix a failed dental contract deal following negotiations with the British Dental Association.

It comes as one of the area’s top dentists warned that if action wasn’t taken urgently to fix the nation’s broken dental system, NHS dentistry ‘as we know it will die’.

Speaking during a visit to Smile Dental Care in Rowner, Ms Caulfield insisted the government had a number of ‘quick-win’ reforms it could make.

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Grilling: minister for patient safety and primary care, Maria Caulfield is interviewed by The News’s chief reporter, Tom Cotterill
Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 270622-08)

The minister said the current dental contract, which has been in place since 2006, ‘didn’t reward dentists, financially’ for taking on NHS patients.

Ms Caulfield told The News the revamped deal would make it ‘much more attractive to dentists’ to take on NHS patients and would ‘better pay them for the work that they are doing.’

She added: ‘I’m hopeful that when we make the announcement this summer, dentists will feel that we have heard their concerns and that actually they will feel there is light and the end of the tunnel and will be keen to continue doing NHS work.’

The pledge comes amid a mass exodus of dentists, with more than 3,000 having left the NHS in England since lockdown, with many more significantly reducing their NHS commitments.

The minister chats with dentist Janita Dhariwal, left, and chairman of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Local Dental Committee, Phil Gowers.
Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 270622-06)

Portsmouth has the 7th lowest number of NHS dentists per 100,000 in the country, at 42.

The dire situation has prompted some desperate residents to pull out their own teeth, wait years to see the dentist or make a 166-mile round trip to Watford to see an NHS dentist.

Phil Gowers, chairman of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Local Dental Committee, said: ‘I think there is no option but to have change. The minister really did listen to what we had to say here today and we are incredibly grateful. But if nothing is done, NHS dentistry as we know it will die.’

Minister for Patient Safety and Primary Care Maria Caulfield
Picture: Chris Moorhouse (jpns 270622-04)


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