NHS Dentists

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 24th March 2009.

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Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland) 2:30 pm, 24th March 2009

If he will take steps to increase the number of NHS dentists in Gloucestershire; and if he will make a statement.

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Photo of Ann Keen Ann Keen Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Health Services), Department of Health

I was assured by NHS South West and Gloucestershire primary care trust this morning that the PCT is in the process of inviting tenders for dental services with a total value of £6 million over the next two years—that is, £3 million in 2009-10 and £3 million in 2010-11. This investment will be used for building purpose-built practices as well as refurbishing community hospital sites to enable them to provide dental services, focusing on areas of most need in Gloucestershire. This investment has the potential to offer access to a dentist to approximately 95,000 people.

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Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

It is difficult to calculate how many people are registered with an NHS dentist since the new contract was established. Perhaps the Minister could give us some idea of how many people are registered in Gloucestershire and nationally. Registration is patchy. In my Tewkesbury constituency a relatively small number of people are registered with NHS dentists, even when compared to other constituencies in Gloucestershire and especially when the national figure is taken into account. What can the Minister do to help the local PCT to increase that number?

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Photo of Ann Keen Ann Keen Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Health Services), Department of Health

We have just announced the money, which will give access to an extra 95,000 people. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would like to welcome that and congratulate the strategic health authority and primary care trust on the great leadership that they have shown on dental practice. I have been advised by the South West strategic health authority that Gloucestershire commissioned three new dental practices, all of which became operational in October 2008—in Forest of Dean, Cirencester and Tewksbury. The SHA has advised that in 2009-10 the tender is expected to be let for schemes in the areas of Gloucester city, Cheltenham and Stroud. The plan is for them to be fully operational by 2010-11.

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Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning Shadow Minister (Health)

The 90,000 extra places for patients that the Minister has just announced will go part of the way to addressing the issue of the 1.1 million people who would like an NHS dentist. Professor Steele is currently doing his review. Will his report be published in full, and will the Government accept all his recommendations?

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Photo of Ann Keen Ann Keen Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Health Services), Department of Health

No, it will be published in full; all of us on this side of the House are humble enough to say when we have made an error. I only wish that the hon. Gentleman would be as honest when Conservative Members do. Like any sensible Government, we will look at the review when it is published.

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