Dental Services (Estimates Committee's Reports)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th July 1963.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Jon Rankin Mr Jon Rankin , Glasgow Govan 12:00 am, 12th July 1963

Robert Burns described toothache as"the hell o' a' disease", and I should imagine that most of us who have experienced it will agree with Burns's description.

It might be said that the function of the vast organisation represented by the dental service has been to try to remove from the experience of childhood, and also the experience of adult years, those sojourns in hell which have from time to time created the apprehensions which filled my colleague for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Hopkins) who served with me on the Committee when he had to venture to the dentist to have this trouble dealt with. We built up this vast organisation to eradicate the pain of bad teeth, the pain of extraction, and the pain of treatment. These pains, today, ought no longer to exist in dentists' surgeries.

The other thing the service is trying to do, not only for the community, but for us as individuals, as parents, is to create in the minds of our children complete confidence in the dentist himself. The dentist, of course, plays his part in it, and the fears of the old days, when a boy or girl had to be taken to the dentist, do not, I think, any longer exist. It is perfectly true to say that children, whenever they feel need for dental care, go themselves directly to the dentist for treatment. Because of that I think the school dental service is tending to diminish, because the children, according to my own experience, are making use of the general dental service.

I think that we should be able to claim that remedial care, which is very important, should now be nationwide, not only for the adult but also for the child, and as a result of the examination to which Sub-Committee C, under the unflagging zeal of the hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington), submitted the dental services we have had to come to conclusions which are somewhat critical of the policy and administration of the Government. It is the fact—and here I speak with personal knowledge—that in so far as adults are concerned in a large part of Scotland the dental services are not functioning as they ought to be at present.

I think it unfortunate that, while in Scotland we claim to have a separate Health Service, which was brought into being under a separate Act, when we are dealing with this important and massive Report, the Scottish Secretary of State is playing an entirely passive part, and the voice of Scotland, through its representative Minister, is not to be heard in any reply which will be made to the debate today. I am casting no doubt on the integrity of the Minister of Health, but in my view it is the province of the Secretary of State for Scotland, or one of the Under-Secretaries of State for Scotland, to speak for Scotland on this important matter today.

It is true to say that there are parts of Scotland where the modern dental health service is practically unknown. There is only a casual instrument in treatment and in care. And it is equally true to say that the method of treatment applied in Burns's day, the soporific, is still the main one which remains to sufferers in certain parts of the remote areas in Scotland.