AN alarming number of children in Colchester are being let down by the lack of NHS dentist services – with nearly HALF in the Suffolk and North-East Essex area failing to have an appointment in a 12-month period.
Research, commissioned from the House of Commons Library by the Liberal Democrats, found some 82,704 children – 44.9% – in the area covered by the Suffolk and North-East Essex Integrated Care Board were not seen by an NHS dentist in the year to June 2023.
Figures also revealed the number of adults in the area suffering the same problem was 453,813 – 60.7%.
The lack of NHS dentists throughout the country was highlighted this week with TV news reports showing long queues of adults forming outside mobile centres.
A new Dental Plan announced by the Government will see cash incentives for NHS dentists, mobile dental services and dental teams visiting schools and nurseries. But it has previously been estimated that the NHS budget was underspent by a record £400million last year, due to dentists not finding it economic to take on NHS work.
Martin Goss, Colchester’s Lib Dem parliamentary candidate, said: “It is appalling that so many children in our area are struggling to see an NHS dentist when they need to. We know that if children can’t access dental health care it can disrupt their eating, sleeping and learning.
“The Government’s plans are too little too late for local families who have been left waiting in pain struggling to get a dentist appointment.”
The Lib Dems are calling for a dental healthcare rescue plan to boost the number of appointments and want reforms to guarantee access to an NHS dentist for everyone needing urgent and emergency care, ending DIY dentistry and “dental deserts”, and the removal of VAT on children’s toothbrushes and toothpaste.
Martin Goss added: “Instead of these half-baked reforms, we need a proper rescue package for dental healthcare. That means guaranteeing access to an NHS dentist for everyone needing emergency care, boosting the number of appointments and removing VAT on children’s toothbrushes and toothpaste.”