A number of constituents are raising concerns about access to services , and also about dental practices going private having been funded by taxpayers throughout the pandemic. Of course this is not a new phenomenon but something that has been happening for more than 20 years - I lost my Workington-based former NHS dentist to private practice nearly 20 years ago. But the reduction in NHS dentists in our area is now particularly acute and has been of great concern to me for some time.
Dentist, like GPs, do not work for the NHS. They are private contractors and companies who choose to take contracts for NHS work. The NHS is funded in real-terms, per capita, at the highest level ever. Budgets have increased in real terms by 38% since 2010.
I have regularly and consistently raised the matter of local capacity with the Chief Executive of NHS England, and with our Integrated Care Board since they took control of dental services. As a direct result of this, North Cumbria has been identified as a priority area with multiple actions taken to try to boost workforce recruitment and retention.
Over last summer, NHS England funded an additional 10,000 dental treatment units (in essence, dental appointments) for North Cumbria, at a massively increased rate, and placed them out to tender so that all Cumbrian practices could apply for them. However, during our autumn meeting, NHS England reported to me that no practices locally chose to bid for any of these treatment bundles, whilst practices in Copeland and Carlisle made successful applications for additional dental treatments.
I have therefore launched this GP and Dentist survey, building on the answers I received to my previous GP and NHS surveys, so that I can hear your views on how your GP Surgery, our local NHS and dental provision have changed during and after the pandemic; and what can be done to improve access, treatment and overall care in our community.
By filling in this short survey, you can make sure we focus on the issues that matter — and help us guide change across our local healthcare services.