Many constituents have contacted me in recent years about the challenge of finding an NHS dentist.
To be clear, it is by no means a problem for everyone but, if it’s a problem for you, it’s problem and, yes, it’s a problem for my family too.
As Chair of the Health Select Committee, your MP is right in the middle of this vexed issue and doing my utmost to press Ministers for a comprehensive – sustainable – response.
Last Summer we published what turned out to be a landmark report setting out, based on the evidence we received, what the Government should do.
That report was described by the British Dental Association as an “instruction manual to save NHS dentistry” and Ministers responded to it just before Christmas.
My committee concluded that NHS dentistry is facing a crisis of access, resulting in a worrying decline in oral health. And we challenged the new Secretary of State to set out how she intends to realise the laudable ambition that everyone who needs one should have access to an NHS dentist.
Earlier this month I spoke in a high-profile debate in the Commons about the issue and didn’t pull my punches.
On the contract dentists have with the NHS – which is critical to why so many are leaving - I recognise that the Government has taken action.
Some initial changes were made to the dental contract in 2022 - and we have assurances of further fundamental reform – but this has to represent a move away from the current system known as ‘Units of Dental Activity’ in favour of a contract which provides financial incentives for seeing new patients and those with greater dental need. Basically, one that prioritises prevention and person-centred care.
But contract reform alone is unlikely to bring back dentists who have already left the NHS or are considering leaving. We must urgently provide compelling incentives to attract new and existing dentists to undertake NHS work.
And we must see the long-promised ‘Dental recovery plan’ which incudes a short-term set of actions to help those suffering real pain today and a fully funded plan that brings NHS dentistry back from the edge.
You can hear more about this on a dentistry special of my health and politics podcast, ‘Prevention is the new cure’, which you can find wherever you get your podcasts from.
Finally, I wrote last month about plans for a possible new hospital between Winchester and Basingstoke (near junction 7) and the implications thereof for the Royal Hampshire.
I have spent almost fourteen years as our MP supporting our hospital and the largely excellent care it gives while ensuring I truly understand the complexities – there are many - of providing safe and sustainable NHS services at an acute trust that is operating across three sites.
It’s disappointing at this point, but not in the least bit surprising, to see a really important debate around the investment of between £700-£900m in local health services being dragged into the gutter of partisan misinformation.
That doesn’t serve anyone and it frightens the very people who need that least of all. My hope, as the consultation continues, is that everyone involved in local politics will raise their game, at least try to understand the issues and work together. Winchester deserves nothing less.
You can find links to the consultation, years of my work on this issue locally and read in detail what I have said about these major proposals at stevebrine.com/prioritynhs
And you can follow my work, in the constituency and in Westminster, at fb.com/stevebrinemp