Liberal Democrats on Kirklees Council have called for urgent reform of NHS dentistry so more people can get to see an NHS dentist.
The group believes that only fundamental and fully-resourced dental contract reform can tackle deep-seated problems in NHS dentistry.
They have argued that a significant number of people in Kirklees are struggling to find an NHS dentist for routine NHS treatment and point out that unequal access to NHS dentistry across Kirklees may be contributing to the wider issue of health inequalities.
The Lib Dems have submitted a motion for debate at the next full council meeting on Wednesday November 15.
In the motion, the group have argued that the current NHS dental contact is not working and needs to be reformed.
The dental contract, which was introduced in 2006, requires NHS dental practices to hit targets, known as units of dental activity (UDA).
However, the system renumerates dentists on their activity and the group believe that the contract is a disincentive for dentists to take on new patients. The group believe that it wrongly puts the focus on meeting targets, rather than delivering good patient care.
Although the Government has pledged to make changes to the NHS contract, Kirklees Liberal Democrat group believes that the changes are minor and do not go far enough in tackling the crisis in NHS dentistry, including the recruitment and retention issues, and are demanding fundamental reform.
Clr Paola Davies (Almondbury) said: “The Government’s Health and Social Care Committee has concluded that the NHS dental contract is not fit-for-purpose and has pledged to hold an inquiry into the crisis in dental services.
“Unless radical and urgent action is taken and the contract is significantly reformed, I believe that NHS dentistry will not survive.
“We can all see that there is a problem. We need urgent intervention from the Government and Department of Health. They need to grasp the challenges of attracting new and current dentists to undertake NHS work.
“Our council motion attempts to address this issue, which is affecting residents in Kirklees, many of whom are unable to access NHS dental services.
“It’s a national problem and it requires a national solution, so we are calling for the Government to take urgent action.”