National health service dental registrations in the north-west have been stable for several years. The region has the second highest registration rate for adults in England, at 49 per cent., which is significantly above the England average. More than 60 per cent. of children in the region are registered with a dentist. This is broadly in line with the national average.
Will my hon. Friend recognise that I get letters every week from people in Burnley who cannot get on an NHS dentist's list, and that advising them to phone NHS Direct is not the way forward? The primary care trust informs me that another dentist is transferring his patients to Denplan, and that a further one will follow shortly. An NHS dental service is no longer available to the majority of people in my constituency, and that is not acceptable.
I sympathise with the problems that some of my hon. Friend's constituents are experiencing, and I understand that there are particular recruitment problems in Burnley. However, that is why there are a number of primary dental service pilots and a new dental unit in Burnley. I am also advised that my hon. Friend's NHS managers are talking to Manchester dental school, to ensure that students want to come to Burnley to work. At the same time, my officials and I are holding discussions with the British Dental Association to ensure that we have support teams in our access problem areas. I will ensure that my hon. Friend's constituency is considered as part of that programme.