Stephen Williams - working hard for Bristol West

Stephen Williams MP highlights state of dentistry in Bristol

1.49.12pm BST (GMT +0100) Tue 4th Apr 2006

In the week that controversial new NHS dental contracts come into force across England and Wales, the Liberal Democrats have revealed figures showing that the number of people in Bristol who are registered with an NHS dentist has already fallen by 37,343 since Labour came to power.

Answers to parliamentary questions show that between 1997 and 2005 the number of adults registered with an NHS dentist in England decreased by 13 per cent. Bristol South and West Primary Care Trust is typical, with a fall of 12.95%. The situation in Bristol North PCT is considerably worse, showing a fall of 21.34%. The overall figures in South and West mask a worrying fall in children who are registered, which fell by 16.59%.

Liberal Democrat MP for Bristol West, Stephen Williams said:

"There is a growing decay in NHS dentistry provision, here in Bristol and across the country. Things were bad when the Conservatives were in power. They have got worse under Labour, and they are set to get worse still.

"I have received a lot of concern from dentists regarding the terms of the new NHS contracts they are being bullied into signing. Some have a choice between laying off staff and going private because the new contracts do not take into account any staff they may have taken on in the last year.

"In 1999 Tony Blair promised that by 2001 everyone would have access to an NHS dentist. Not only has this not happened - the situation has actually worsened; in 2005, compared to 1997, there are now over 37,000 more adults and children in Bristol that are not registered with an NHS dentist.

"These new figures, unearthed by the Lib Dems, show that NHS dentistry had reached crisis point even before these new contracts were imposed. Now the situation looks even grimmer as many dentists are refusing to sign the contract and are leaving the NHS altogether.

"The new dental contracts are not giving local NHS dentists enough confidence to make a long-term commitment to the NHS. It is no wonder the dentists have lost faith in the Government as there was no consultation period for the new contract which many dentists received with only a month to go until the April deadline.

"Several Bristol Dentists and orthodontists have contacted me to express their concern about the new contract. Some fear being put out of business."

"The failure to increase registrations through this new contract is an indictment of Labour's failure to restore the NHS to what it should be: a universal, comprehensive service that provides ongoing health care to everyone who needs it."

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Next news story: Stephen Williams MP highlights fight against homophobia (Wed 5th Apr 2006).

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