Rosie Winterton, 48, was appointed as Minister of State at the Department of Health in June 2003.
As minister for dentistry, she oversaw a recruitment drive to bring overseas dentists to the UK – many from Poland – to fill gaps in the British workforce.
In 2005, 312 Poles joined the health service, lifting the number of new foreign dentists to 821 – nearly twice that of the previous year. The foreign recruitment helped the government keep a promise to recruit 1,000 extra dentists by October 2005.
Ms Winterton also oversaw an increase in the number of dentists entering training each year, from 674 in 2004 to 848 in 2005 – a 25% rise.
But she will be remembered primarily as the minister who introduced the new contract in April 2006, described by chief dental officer for England Barry Cockcroft as ‘the first major reform of NHS dentistry since 1948’.
But the reforms came under fire from dentists’ leaders and political opponents. The British Dental Association said the contract was meant to improve access and to enable a more preventative approach to care – but appeared to be ‘failing on both counts’.
The Conservatives said the contract had pushed dentists out of the NHS and led to more patients paying more, ‘if they are able to access dentistry at all’.
As well as leading on dentistry matters, Ms Winterton was also responsible for cancer and cardiac services, diabetes, mental health, and equality and diversity issues.
She was elected Labour MP for the South Yorkshire constituency of Doncaster Central in 1997. Last month, she was moved from the Department of Health and appointed Minister of State at the Department of Transport.