In a series of questions about dentistry in Hampshire, the Minister – Rosie Winterton – was put on the defensive when confronted with details of the difficulties that people in Hampshire face in accessing an NHS dentist.
“I get many letters from people who cannot sign on with an NHS dentist and, if they want NHS treatment, often have to travel great distances. I therefore made a constructive suggestion to the Minister that she should increase the output of dentists locally by supporting a proposal for a new medical school at Southampton. I wasn’t entirely encouraged by her reply”. (see below)
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): Is the Minister aware of proposals to invest in a new medical school in Southampton to increase the supply of NHS dentists in Hampshire, which will address the problems that we have just heard about? Is the hon. Lady able to give those proposals her support?
Ms Winterton: As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Alison Seabeck), the 170 extra places that we have made available for undergraduates are being placed in the existing nine dental schools. We recognised that we had to put right the situation, given that the previous Conservative Administration had closed two dental schools. We had to rectify that. About 78 of the places will continue to be in existing dental schools. We are receiving bids from existing dental schools and places where people want to open a new dental school. We think that this will amount to the opening of at least one new dental school. It may be that some of the places will be in satellite schools of some of the dental schools in different areas. As the right hon. Gentleman says, one of the difficulties is getting dentists into certain areas. They can tend to cluster around dental schools. Some interesting ideas have been put forward about how satellite schools can be opened to ensure that dentists are in some of the areas where there have traditionally been shortages.