MP for Bury St Edmunds proposes a reduction in dental visits

06 December 2021
2 min read

Jo Churchill, MP for Bury St Edmunds, was recently asked about dental care in Suffolk by Suffolk News.

Indeed, dentistry in the area has already been subject to attention recently, after a lack of free dental care spurred the creation of campaign group Toothless in Suffolk.

That the charity Dentaid, which usually offers free treatment to homeless and vulnerable people domestically and internationally, visited Bury early last month for two days and offered treatment to around 70 people struggling to find an NHS dentist, highlights the severity of the issue.

A survey by the East Anglian Daily Times also raised concerns, after they shared that, “We attempted to make contact with NHS dental practices in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds that are listed on the NHS website, not including orthodontists (who correct the position of the teeth).

“We were able to get responses from 17 of the 27 listed, and none are currently registering new NHS adult patients, and only one said they were taking on children.”

The news outlet explained that Jo acknowledged Suffolk being a rural area raised issues, before expanding, “Workforce is a big issue, so we have a challenge with the number of dentists, dental technicians, and dental nurses who are willing to work.

“Because there’s a lot of upskilling that could go on, where somebody who isn’t a qualified dentist could do some of the basic work and do some of the checking, and then refer on to the dentist.”

This comment in particular has since been addressed by Toothless in Suffolk, who believe that “this de-skilling of qualified dentists is yet another privatisation move,” according to a tweet they posted recently.

Jo also explained to Suffolk News, “Bury has always had a really strong private dental market and that has become even more so.

“I think we should look at the contract, and I think we should look at who needs to go.

“Because if you have really good teeth, do you need to go twice a year? Could you give one of your spaces to somebody who does need the visit, and you go just once a year, once every 18 months.”

The MP “acknowledged the problem was ‘incredibly complex’ and also said previous incentivisation schemes, encouraging dental staff to work in a particular area, had not ‘produced’ what was needed to alleviate the problems seen across the county”.

Jo was recently moved to take up a parliamentary under-secretary role in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) – she had been at the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC). However, she told the news publication that “despite her recent change in role, she was still working on training more staff and ideas to bring more ‘capacity’ but said there was no ‘quick fix’”.