Barely half the people of Wrexham and Clwyd South have visited a dentist in the past two years, prompting calls for urgent action to address the shortfall in NHS dentist capacity in Wales.
Plaid Cymru’s Assembly candidate for Wrexham Marc Jones said that too many people in communities across North-east Wales are finding it difficult to access an NHS dentist and are therefore going without essential dental treatment. He said: “Just 53% of people in Wrexham have seen a dentist in the past 24 months and failing to have regular check-ups can have long-term health consequences.”
His concern was reinforced by Mabon ap Gwynfor, the party’s Assembly candidate in neighbouring Clwyd South, where just 56% of the population has seen a dentist in the past two years.
They outlined proposals currently being considered by Plaid as a way to address this problem. They said Plaid’s proposals would introduce a new right to NHS treatment for the people of Wales. This treatment would be provided by dentists who have benefitted from state-funded training. Under the proposals these dentists would have to devote up to half their working week to the care of NHS patients.
It costs the tax payer £175,000 to put dentistry students through five years of training after which, under the current system, they are required to spend only the first year of their career as a qualified practitioner within the NHS.
Marc Jones said:
“It is clear that currently many people in Wales are finding it difficult to find an NHS dentist, supply simply doesn’t meet demand. For a lot of people going private is simply not an option, so instead they go without dental care. This is unacceptable – regular dental check-ups are essential in maintaining oral health. Not only in terms of problems relating to tooth decay but also in terms of the prevention and identification of more serious diseases. Rates of mouth cancer are on the rise – cases have increased by 41% in the UK in the last decade – and regular check-ups are essential for catching the disease early.”
Mabon ap Gwynfor added:
“Plaid is looking very seriously at how this urgent lack of NHS dentists in Welsh communities can be addressed. One proposal we are considering is the introduction of a new right to NHS treatment for the people of Wales. This would be provided by dentists who have benefitted from state-funded training. Under the proposal Plaid in government would negotiate with dentists to ensure that those who have received state-funded training will remain in the NHS for up to half their working week. This is something that would be possible even in the face of the savage spending cuts that the London ConDem government is imposing on Wales as it would be a matter of renegotiating dental contracts rather than capital investment.
“Plaid is ambitious for the future of Wales. We’re not content to sit back and accept the status quo. We’re looking at new, radical and innovative policies and solutions that will transform Wales and its communities.”