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NHS Dentistry

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

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Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Opposition Whip (Commons) 2:30 pm, 24th November 2009

What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of NHS dental provision; and if he will make a statement.

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Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of NHS dental provision.

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Photo of Ann Keen Ann Keen Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health

More than 27.6 million people saw an NHS dentist in the 24 months ending June 2009. That is almost 750,000 more than in the same period ending June 2008.

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Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Opposition Whip (Commons)

I thank the Minister for her answer. Paul Bason, a constituent of mine and a dentist, came to see me and told me that he has a major problem, because when someone needs a root canal operation on their teeth the current dental contract incentivises him to remove the tooth rather than to perform an operation. Does the Minister think that the contract is conducive to good dental practice?

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Photo of Ann Keen Ann Keen Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health

No, I do not. We have discussed that issue and root canal work many times in the House, and I suggest that the primary care trust in the hon. Gentleman's constituency speaks to the dentist concerned. Some root canal work is extremely complicated, so if the dentist cannot carry out the required clinical procedure, he can refer the patient to an NHS hospital, where a consultant will see them.

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Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

May I wish the Secretary of State's father a speedy recovery?

In 1999, Tony Blair promised access for all to an NHS dentist by 2001. Since the contract was rejigged, more than 1 million people now do not have access to an NHS dentist-an increase of half a million. When will Tony Blair's promise be fulfilled?

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Photo of Ann Keen Ann Keen Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health

I believe that the hon. Gentleman will be aware of the increase in dentistry and dental practice over the past two to three years, particularly in his own area. Oxfordshire has a contract with an existing practice to provide short-term provision, initially for 500 additional patients. In Oxfordshire, the number of dentists increased from 262 in March 2007 to 309 in March 2009. I hope that I am known in the House for my caring attitude to staff and to Members. Later this afternoon, I am opening a dental practice in Horseferry road in Westminster, which I am sure that residents and people who work in this area will be able to use.

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Photo of Natascha Engel Natascha Engel Labour, North East Derbyshire

Will my hon. Friend agree to meet me to discuss the plight of lab technicians who make crowns and dentures for dentists? With dentists using cheaper foreign options, our domestic industry is dying on its feet.

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Photo of Ann Keen Ann Keen Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health

My hon. Friend raises with me an issue that I am happy to discuss with her at a later date.

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Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning Shadow Minister (Health)

I am sure that the whole House would agree that when our armed forces come home on leave they need the best possible treatment from the NHS. Does the Minister therefore agree that it is abhorrent that when a serviceman comes home on leave and needs dental treatment he is turned away by the PCT because there is no funding stream for that treatment and sent back to barracks for treatment? Is that not wrong in the NHS in the 21st century?

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Photo of Ann Keen Ann Keen Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health

If the hon. Gentleman would like to give me evidence of that, I would be very interested to look at it.

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