Commons debate request is rebuffed

The government has rejected calls for a full House of Commons debate on the future of NHS dentistry.

It followed a challenge from Liberal Democrat MP Mark Hunter during business questions last month. Mr Hunter, who represents Cheadle in Greater Manchester, told Parliament: ‘Eighty-five per cent of dentists surveyed by the British Dental Association say they do not believe that the new dental contract offers sufficient access to care, and 95% say they have less confidence now than two years ago in the future of NHS dentistry.’

He asked Commons Leader Harriet Harman to secure an ‘early debate’ on the future of dentistry under the NHS. Ms Harman responded that the government remained ‘very concerned to increase access to, and the quality of, dental services’. But she refused to offer time in the Parliamentary schedule for a full debate and advised Mr Hunter to apply for a shorter slot either late at night or in the smaller Westminster Hall chamber.

Mr Hunter told Dentistry that MPs from across the country wanted the opportunity to ‘have their say’ on NHS dentistry. He said: ‘Tony Blair went out on a limb to promise that, regardless of where people lived, within two years they would all have access to an NHS dentist. Since then we have gone backwards not forwards.

‘There has been a monumental failure on the government’s part not to resolve this and the contract has made matters worse. By failing to act the government is storing up problems for the future and I believe all MPs should have their say on this in a debate.’

By Andy Tate, parliamentary correspondent 

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