A plan to improve access to dentists in Bradford is being worked on by NHS England following the intervention of Judith Cummins MP and concerns raised by Healthwatch Bradford.
Judith met recently with Healthwatch Bradford, the independent watchdog for health and social care, about the initial findings of their project on access to NHS dentists and to discuss how they can work together to improve services.
“I’m pleased to be working together with Healthwatch to focus attention on this issue and to get improvements in access to NHS dental services in Bradford,” said Judith.
Minister of State for Community and Social Care, the Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP, has written to the Bradford South MP, responding to concerns she first raised at Prime Minister’s question time in January.
Judith commented: “Back in January I challenged the Prime Minister about the lack of availability of NHS dentists in Bradford.
It is shocking that 46% of five year old children in Bradford suffer from tooth decay, compared with 28% across England, and less than half the children living in Bradford have seen a dentist in the last two years.
I said that I wanted a better deal for my constituents so I’m pleased to see that there is now an acknowledgement of the problem.”
NHS England and the West Yorkshire Local Dental Network (LDN) are now working on a plan to improve access to primary care dentistry in West Yorkshire. The LDN is proposing to run pilot projects in Bradford South, Bradford City and North Kirklees.
Judith said: “This pilot programme is a step in the right direction, but it needs to follow through into a long term solution to the problem.”
The scale of the issue is highlighted by the more than 1,000 responses that Healthwatch Bradford has had in its study of the difficulties people have in finding an NHS dentist in the city.
Andrew Jones, manager of Healthwatch Bradford said, “A large majority of those who had a dentist were very satisfied with their dental care, but nearly half of the people we spoke to did not have a dentist but wanted one.
People told us that they couldn’t find a dentist taking NHS patients or had been told that the nearest one was in Leeds or Halifax. Some had been put on a waiting list for months leaving people in desperate need – we found that 10% of people needed to use emergency dental treatment because they couldn’t find a regular dentist.”
Healthwatch organisations from Bradford and Kirklees have met with their Local Dental Committee leads and NHS England and are working with them to set up a pilot scheme to open up more NHS dental appointments in Bradford and in north Kirklees.
Mr Jones said, “Healthwatch welcomes this development and supports all actions that will improve access to local NHS dental care for people in significant need. We have met with local MPs and are pleased that they too are pressing for improvements in access to NHS dental services.”