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Labour MPs write open letter to Matt Hancock urging him to tackle 'NHS crisis' after Mildenhall mydentist comments

An open letter sent to health secretary Matt Hancock has urged him to tackle an ‘impending crisis’ in NHS dentistry after he backed a private treatment scheme during an interview with the Bury Free Press.

Last month, the Free Press spoke to Mr Hancock about the lack of NHS dental places in Bury St Edmunds as he visited the mydentist practice in Mildenhall, which is currently closed to NHS patients.

Mr Hancock threw support behind the UK-wide company’s new ‘affordable’ private scheme, called Access mydentist, as a means of combatting the dental care crisis in the area, which has seen residents forced to make a 20-mile round trip to receive NHS treatment.

Health secretary Matt Hancock visited the mydentist surgery in Mildenhall to meet staff and tour the surgery. (7266497)
Health secretary Matt Hancock visited the mydentist surgery in Mildenhall to meet staff and tour the surgery. (7266497)

But despite the company’s chief executive Tom Riall describing the prices as ‘marginally above’ those of the NHS, the Free Press revealed that a round of treatment could in fact see patients pay almost £400 more.

Speaking during the visit, Mr Hancock said: “Dentistry has always been a mixed market with some people paying and others on the NHS and that system has served Britain well for a long time and any ideas for how to strengthen that offer are very welcome.”

But his controversial comments were picked up by Yasmin Qureshi, MP for Bolton South East, who wrote an open letter to the health secretary urging him to ‘recognise and address this impending crisis in NHS dentistry’, which was also signed by 16 other Labour MPs.

Matt Hancock, health secretary (7209191)
Matt Hancock, health secretary (7209191)

The letter said that the group ‘felt compelled’ to write to Mr Hancock after his ‘recent comments regarding problems with access to NHS dentistry in Mildenhall in your constituency’ and his ‘suggestion that patients should instead seek dental help privately through Access mydentist’.

It added that Mr Hancock’s ‘warm words’ about wanting to see dentistry at the centre of the NHS ‘in no way translate into actions’ and instead described treatment of NHS dental services as ‘an afterthought, an optional extra’.

A spokesman from the department of health and social care said: “We want every single person to have access to high quality dental care, wherever they live, and in the last two years 22 million adults were seen by a dentist.”

He added that the department was ‘working closely’ with NHS England to support dentists and improve access to dental services.

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