Access to NHS Dentists

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:03 pm on 12th September 2017.

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Photo of Steve Brine Steve Brine The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health 11:03 pm, 12th September 2017

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman an exact time. I know that is annoying and I am sorry, but I cannot. It will happen ASAP—as soon as possible—and I will let the House know when it does.

Let me wrap up my speech by covering the other points that I need to make in response to the debate. We are about to launch the much anticipated and much discussed Starting Well programme, which is aimed at children under five. I think that it borrows from some of the stuff that is going on north of the border.

Children’s oral health is better than it has ever been, with 72% of five-year-old children in England now decay free. However, vast inequalities remain, as we have heard today. To tackle those inequalities, NHS England has been leading the Starting Well programme, alongside Public Health England—I was in Warwick today, speaking to its annual conference—the British Dental Association and, of course, colleagues at the Department of Health. The overall aim is to improve the oral health of children under the age of five who do not currently visit a dentist in 13 identified high-priority areas. The areas that have been selected will be confirmed shortly. My officials will have heard a passionate bid from Opposition Members today.

I am sure that the House will welcome the initiative. The intention is to reduce the unacceptable oral health inequalities that exist for children in this country. We know that visiting a dentist early in a child’s life can help lay the foundations for a lifetime of good oral health.

Locally to the hon. Member for Bradford South, I am aware that NHS England ran an initiative to tackle the dental access issues in west Yorkshire. The aim of the dental access pilot was to improve access to primary care NHS dentistry in the Bradford City, Bradford Districts and North Kirklees clinical commissioning group areas.