Children should have rotten teeth extracted in day clinics to ease the growing strain on local NHS hospitals, a Conservative peer says.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes, a former dentist herself, warned of high costs and bed shortages because of the large numbers of young people admitted onto wards with dental caries.
The peer said she had recently had cataract operations performed in a specialist day surgery in London, where the quality of care had been ‘splendid’.
And she told the House of Lords: ‘As patients, we spent a day at the clinic and did not take up any beds.
‘A day centre that is fully staffed with a competent general anaesthetic specialty available would be so much better, not only in terms of saving money for the NHS, but also for children and their families.
‘It is quite frightening for a small child to be stuck in a hospital for a night, so to do so unnecessarily and at great expense is, I think, really too much.’
Baroness Gardner said she had received ‘some quite abusive emails’ after making the suggestion previously – from people suggesting children would be at risk.
But she added: ‘Why should they be substandard?
‘I am suggesting a day centre that really is right up to standard.’
The call comes amid growing controversy about tooth decay among children, which is the number one cause of hospital admissions.
Every year, 46,500 young people under 19 have teeth removed under general anaesthetic, with hospitals forced to run extra operations in the evenings and at weekends to deal with demand.
Baroness Gardner is a former member of the General Dental Council and used to sit on the since-abolished Standing Dental Advisory Committee for England and Wales.
The peer also warned that attempts to improve Manchester’s notoriously poor record for dental health would be undermined by continued opposition to fluoridation of water.
She said: ‘What is the difference in other health patterns between Birmingham and Manchester?
‘There is no difference.
‘The really significant difference is to be found in people’s dental condition.’
And she suggested the country was still paying a price for scrapping free dental check-ups, which she had once attempted to bring back – passing an amendment in the House of Lords.
Baroness Gardner said: ‘Lots of people would have been saved horrible deaths from mouth cancer and others would have known that it was time to go.’