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Liberal Democrats

F27: Access to Dental Care

Submitted by: 10 members.
Mover: Daisy Cooper MP (Spokesperson for Health and Social Care).
Summation: Baroness Brinton (Lords Spokesperson for Health and Social Care).


Conference notes with concern that:

  1. People are resorting to DIY dentistry because they cannot get a dental appointment on the NHS and cannot afford to pay hundreds, if not thousands for private dental care.
  2. Healthwatch England found that 41% of people are struggling to get an NHS dental appointment, with one in five unable to access all the treatments they needed.
  3. The British Dental Association (BDA) estimates that 3,000 dentists in England have moved away from NHS work entirely since March 2020 with many more significantly reducing their NHS commitment, and have warned of an "unprecedented" collapse, barring significant government intervention.
  4. One in six dentists are approaching retirement, the vast majority of local practices have already started shutting their doors to new NHS patients and some are preparing to stop taking NHS patients altogether.
  5. Emerging 'dental deserts' with the fewest dentists per person and often in rural or deprived areas, has left people waiting for basic, often urgent care and is leading to millions missing appointments, as well as growing health inequalities.
  6. Tooth decay is consistently the number one reason for hospital admissions among young children and children from the most deprived areas are already three times more likely to have hospital extractions than their peers.

Conference believes that:

  1. Everyone should be able to access an NHS dentist if they need one and no one should be forced to pay hundreds of pounds for private care.
  2. The Government's failure to address the shortage of NHS dental appointments and refusal to fund the system properly is leading to a two-tier system, with those that can afford dental care and those that cannot.
  3. The NHS dental contract is putting government targets ahead of needs of patients and sets perverse targets that are leading to poor outcomes.
  4. The number of NHS dentists is critical to tackling long waiting times and poor access to NHS dental appointments.
  5. The Conservative Government's efforts to increase the number of NHS dental appointments has made no significant impact.

Conference calls for:

  1. Reform of and increased funding for the NHS dental services contract, to ensure it:
    1. Encourages and incentivises dentists to take on NHS patients.
    2. Meets patient need and demand rather than arbitrary targets.
    3. Puts an end to 'dental deserts'.
  2. An increase to the number of dentist training places in the UK and continued recognition of EU trained dentists' qualifications.
  3. Proper workforce planning for health and social care to be written into law, including projections for dentists and dental staff.
  4. The launch of an emergency scheme to ensure children, pregnant women and young mothers have access to their free check ups on time.
  5. Supervised tooth brushing training for children in early years settings, such as nurseries.
  6. The removal of VAT on children's toothbrushes and children's toothpaste.

Applicability: England only; except 2. and 6., which are Federal.


Mover: 7 minutes; summation of motion and movers and summation of any amendments: 4 minutes; all other speakers: 3 minutes. For eligibility and procedure for speaking in this debate, see page 9 of the agenda.

The deadline for amendments to this motion , is 13.00 Monday 5 September, see page 12 of the agenda. Those selected for debate will be printed in Conference Extra and Monday's Conference Daily. The deadline for requests for separate votes is 09.00 on Sunday 18 September, see pages 8-9 of the agenda.