IT IS estimated that 7.4 million people in England and Wales have not been to a National Health Service dentist since April 2006, because they cannot find a dentist working within the NHS in their area.
This is the devastating situation facing millions of people discovered by a survey carried out by the charity Citizens Advice (The National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux).
More than 30 per cent of those questioned said that the reason they had not been to a NHS dentist was because they could not get one.
Citizens Advice estimates that of the 7.4 million people, 4.7 million had sought private treatment and 2.7 million had simply been forced to go without dental care. The government acknowledged in 2006 that two million people could not get an NHS dentist.
Citizens Advice Chief Executive said: ‘These figures show the scale of the lack of access to NHS dentistry, reflecting the evidence which bureaux across England and Wales have been reporting ever since the early 90s. People on low incomes are particularly affected as private treatment is just not an option.’
In Cornwall someone asked the CAB to find them an NHS dentist anywhere in the county, but one could not be found.
A pensioner in North Yorkshire was told that there were two NHS dentists in the area, but both had a 12-month waiting time to join their patient list.
Hampshire CAB reported that it found that the nearest NHS dentist for someone with a disabled husband was 17 miles from their home and no public transport existed to get there.
The British Dental Association, which represents 20,000 dentists in the country, challenged the government concerning the situation exposed by Citizens Advice. It said: ‘(The BDA) has warned that primary care trusts and dentists must be properly supported if the Government is serious about improving access for patients.’
In response to Citizens Advice’s findings, Health Minister Ann Keen said: ‘We are working hard to improve access to NHS dentists and the government remains fully committed to expanding services.’
After 11 years in which Labour has been in office, the government’s past ‘commitment’ has resulted in 7.4 million people being deprived of a NHS dentist!
It is clear that Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s government has no intention of funding NHS dentistry so that it provides free, universal, comprehensive dental care, that is a service based on the founding principles of the NHS.
Ophthalmic care has already ceased to be an accessible free NHS service, as corporate chains of opticians have taken over in the high street. NHS dentistry is being killed off in the same way.
The demise of NHS dentistry exposed by Citizens Advice is a warning about the government’s plans for the rest of the NHS, including family General Practitioners (GPs) and District General Hospitals.
Brown justified dismantling these vital services 10 days ago in his speech on the future of the NHS, when he declared: ‘The NHS of the future will be one of patient power, patients engaged and taking greater control over their own health and healthcare too.’
As far as dental care is concerned, millions are already being forced to carry out their own care because there are no NHS dentists.
This is the blueprint for Brown’s ‘expert patients’ and people with chronic, life-threatening conditions treating themselves and dying quietly in their homes.
GP’s services are to be taken over by profit-grabbing healthcare corporations and their polyclinics. NHS District General Hospitals are being closed down, to be replaced by a few specialist centres with A&Es and private ISTCs carrying out routine operations.
To stop dentistry becoming the model for the whole of the NHS, healthcare workers’ unions must join with the rest of the trade union movement in taking mass strike action to stop the destruction of the NHS and bring down the Brown government.
The only way to defend the NHS and restore and expand it, to ensure that it is a universal, free, comprehensive service, is by replacing the Brown government with a workers’ government that will carry out socialist policies.