MP presents petition to parliament to tackle NHS dental crisis

12 January 2024

On January 9, 2024, Tim Farron, MP for Westmoreland, Furness and Eden, presented a petition to the House of Commons urging action on the lack of available NHS dental places in Cumbria and other rural areas.

The petition, which more than 2,600 residents signed, calls on the government to increase training places for new dentists, reform NHS dental contracts and make it easier to recruit experienced dentists to fill dental vacancies in rural areas.

Tim also spoke in a Parliamentary debate about access to dentistry, where he raised the latest figures, which show that the proportion of children in Cumbria seen by a dentist in the NHS each year went from 64 per cent in 2018 to just 50 per cent last year.

Tim said, “Half of our children in our communities - from Grasmere to Grange, Appleby to Ambleside, Kendal to Kirkby Stephen and Windermere to Warcop - do not have access to an NHS dentist. That is a disgrace.

“A quick search of the NHS website shows that the nearest dental practice to Kendal that is taking on NHS patients is in Accrington, an 80-mile round trip and that the nearest NHS practice to Kirkby Stephen is in Newton Aycliffe in County Durham, a round trip of two hours.

“I have heard first-hand from my constituents about the shocking scale of the difficulty of getting access to appointments for children. One attendance officer at one of our primary schools wrote to me earlier last year after she found that families in her school were going abroad for dental appointments. She said: Tim, I felt compelled to email you to tell you… We have a high number of children who are regularly missing out on education due to being unable to register with a local NHS dentist. A large number of our children have Polish, Romanian, Latvian and Ukrainian parents and therefore will find it easier to travel back to their parents’ original home country rather than wait for a local NHS dentist who is accepting patients.

“Wow! Let us be clear: she is saying that some children in Cumbria find it easier to get dental treatment travelling to a war zone than to access the NHS dental care that their parents have already paid for through their taxes.”