A GOVERNMENT programme announced this week to overhaul dentistry services in the UK will ‘take years to implement’, local MP Ian Liddell-Grainger said.

Mr Liddell-Grainger welcomed the decision to set aside £200 million to start making inroads into waiting lists caused by a shortage of NHS dentists.

The Government has promised the money will fund 2.5 million extra appointments and 1.5 million extra treatments over the next year.

There will also be cash incentives for dentists for delivering check-ups and treatments to patients they have not seen for two years, as well as an initiative aimed at achieving widespread improvements in children’s dental health.

Mr Liddell-Grainger represents West Somerset and will be the Conservative General Election candidate for a new constituency taking in parishes around Wellington and the Culm Valley.

He said he was encouraged the Government had recognised and was addressing the chronic shortage of NHS dental services. 

Mr Liddell-Grainger said: “Not only have we seen NHS practices disappear but because of the poor provision of public transport, patients needing treatment have faced immense problems in accessing it.

“And when I hear of people having to travel 40 miles to find an NHS dentist who will see them it is clear not merely how much the State dentistry service has declined but how much of a long-term challenge we face in rebuilding it.”

Mr Liddell-Grainger said encouraging higher standards of dental heath among children would theoretically pay dividends in the future by reducing the demand for treatments.

“But that is for the future, my concern is how quickly we are going to be able to expand NHS dentistry provision now to tackle the huge backlog of people in need of often quite complex procedures,” he said.

“The fact is that when private dentists are charging as much as £1,000 for a single treatment their services are well beyond what most people can afford.

“Nobody, I think, can justifiably complain about paying the standard NHS charges and we must do whatever we can to make sure that many more people soon get a chance to avail themselves of the excellent services NHS dentists offer.”