The “dental desert” of NHS dentistry in South Cambridgeshire was raised in the House of Commons debate this week by Lib Dem MP Sarah Dyke.
Pippa Heylings, the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for South Cambridgeshire says; “Gaps in provision lead to gaps in teeth. We need more dentists in this region.” As she launches a campaign calling for the creation of a new dental school in the East of England.
Pippa’s campaign for a new dental school is based on evidence that the provision of dental training is uneven across the country. Currently, there are six dental schools in the North, two in London, two in the South West and one in the Midlands. There are no dental schools in the East of England region. The government’s new NHS Workforce Plan commits to increasing the number of training places for dental therapy and hygiene professionals across the UK by 28% by 2028/29.
Pippa’s campaign builds on earlier proposals by the University of East Anglia for a new dental school which has received cross-party support from MPs in Norwich and Norfolk but has so far been ignored by the government.
Speaking in Parliament this week, Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Dyke highlighted the ongoing dental crisis, drawing attention to shortages in South Cambridgeshire directly; “This issue is prevalent in South Cambridgeshire, where there is a 100% refusal rate for new NHS dental patients. The lack of dental provision in rural areas is exacerbated by the fact that the East of England is one of the few regions of the country with no dental school to train new dentists.”
Pippa had highlighted to the MP that not a single dental practice is accepting new NHS dental patients despite the rapidly growing population. Since 2022 there has been a 100% refusal rate for new patients at NHS dentists across Cambridgeshire. This means no new patients can get NHS dental appointments and many are facing high private fees or are choosing to forgo dental care.
This comes after research carried out by Pippa Heylings and the Liberal Democrats revealed that almost half of all survey respondents (45%) found it ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ to get a dentist appointment in South Cambridgeshire.
This situation is particularly bad for young children. For many years now, the number one cause for children’s hospital admissions has been tooth decay. Children are suffering needlessly. Pippa said; “A worried mother in Shelford told me that her two young sons had never been able to see a dentist. This is disgraceful.”
“The East of England has no dental school to train up new dentists, which are sorely needed. I am launching a petition on behalf of South Cambridgeshire residents who badly need more dental provision to get the government to finally look at creating a dental school in our region.”