New figures show worsening state of local NHS dentistry
The number of people in Chelmsford registered with an NHS dentist has fallen by over 7,000 since Labour came to power in 1997, according to figures from the Dental Practice Board obtained by Liberal Democrat Stephen Robinson. These figures come in the same week that controversial new NHS dental contracts come into force across England and Wales.
The figures show a fall of nearly 10% of adults and nearly 6% of children over the eight year period in the Chelmsford Primary Care Trust area, and in the PCT covering Maldon and South Woodham, the figure for children is a shocking 19% fall. The figures were provided to local Liberal Democrat Stephen Robinson (parliamentary candidate in 2005) by LD Shadow Health Minister Sandra Gidley MP.
Mr Robinson said:
"There is a growing decay in NHS dentistry provision. Things were bad when the Conservatives were in power. They have got worse under Labour, and they are set to get worse still.
"In 1999 Tony Blair promised that by 2001 everyone would have access to an NHS dentist. Not only has this not happened - the situation has actually worsened. In 2005, there were 10,458 fewer adults and children in Chelmsford and Maldon not registered with an NHS dentist compared to 1997.
"These new figures show that NHS dentistry had reached crisis point even before these new contracts were imposed. Now the situation looks even grimmer for Chelmsford as many dentists are refusing to sign the contract and are leaving the NHS altogether.
"The new dental contracts are not giving local NHS dentists enough confidence to make a long-term commitment to the NHS. It is no wonder the dentists have lost faith in the Government as there was no consultation period for the new contract which many dentists received with only a month to go until the April deadline.
"Many dentists have also had to employ lawyers in order to understand the jargon within the contract and are extremely reluctant to sign something which they don't fully understand.
"The failure to increase registrations through this new contract is an indictment of Labour's failure to restore the NHS to what it should be: a universal, comprehensive service that provides ongoing health care to everyone who needs it."