Figures show decline of NHS dentistry in the South Downs

The number of people in the Arundel & South Downs constituency who have access to an NHS dentist has fallen dramatically since 1997.


The figures were revealed in a Department of Health reply to a question tabled by Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert.

In 1997, 26,321 adults in the Arundel & South Downs constituency were registered with an NHS dentist.  By April 2006, this figure had dropped to 16,195 - a reduction of nearly 40 per cent.

The number of children with access to an NHS dentist in the constituency has also dropped, with only 7,948 children being registered with an NHS dentist in March 2006.  This is compared to 9,942 in March 1997 and represents a fall of more than one fifth.

The dramatic drop in the number of people with access to NHS dentistry comes despite spending on the NHS having more than doubled in real terms since 1997 and the Prime Minister's pledge in 1999 that "everyone within the next two years will be able once again to see an NHS dentist."

Constituency-based figures are not available for 2007 due to the introduction of a new NHS dentistry contract.  However, it is unlikely that the situation will have improved as nationally the introduction of the new contract saw more than 2,000 dentists leaving the NHS to focus on private work as a result of concerns that any previous flexibility and time for preventative care would be lost.

Separate figures obtained by Nick Herbert show that the number of NHS dentists in the Arundel & South Downs constituency has declined from 29 in 1997 to 22 in 2006.

Nick Herbert commented: "These figures offer a stark illustration of the Government's mishandling of NHS dentistry.

"It was the Prime Minister himself who promised that everyone would have access to an NHS dentist under this Government and this Government that, ten years' ago this week, told the country that they had 24 hours to save the NHS. 

"To my constituents, both of these pledges ring very hollow."


Alexander Black