THE Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Carlisle has called for a ‘comprehensive plan’ to help ‘rescue dental healthcare' in the city.

NHS dentist appointments are increasingly hard to obtain and of the twelve dental surgeries which provided a recent update in Carlisle, none are currently accepting any new adult patients.

The nearest practice to Carlisle which is accepting NHS patients is more than 30 miles away, in Hexham.

A report by the Nuffield Trust said NHS dentistry was in “near terminal decline” and “at its most perilous point in its 75-year history”.

The government has launched a new plan to help NHS dentist services across the country which will see around 240 dentists will be offered one-off payments of up to £20,000 for working in under-served areas for up to three years, helping to attract new NHS dentists and improve provision of care in areas with the highest demand.

The Lib Dem candidate for Carlisle, Cllr Brian Wernham has rejected the government’s plan.

Brian added: “Earlier this week, the Cumberland Liberal Democrats criticised the government's latest dental plan.

“The proposed extra £6,666 annually over three years for each dentist is a sum too small to significantly improve service provision.

Brian continued: “At the moment, if a dentist does a treatment that involves fillings or extractions this will earn the dentist three ‘units of dental activity’ (UDA). Unfortunately, the dentist is paid the same for performing several fillings as one, even though the work involved is far more. In 2022, the Lib Dems called for the government to overhaul the UDA payment scheme.

“Carlisle needs a comprehensive dental healthcare rescue plan that includes increasing appointment availability, ensuring access to urgent and emergency dental services for all, eradicating the need for ‘DIY dentistry’, eliminating ‘dental deserts’, and removing VAT from children's dental hygiene products UK-wide.”

Further elements to the government’s new plan include new dental vans to help reach more isolated communities, including in rural and coastal areas and a new patient premium payment to incentivise dentists to treat around a million new patients who have not seen an NHS dentist in two years or more.

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The government’s plan has been backed by Penrith and the Border MP, Dr Neil Hudson.

“Everyone should be able to access NHS dentistry quickly and easily, and I understand the frustration of people when they need to see a dentist but struggle to get an NHS appointment,” said Dr Hudson.

“My team and I have worked hard to help residents access the care they deserve and dentistry continues to be a high priority for me.

“I am therefore delighted that the Government has published its NHS Dental Recovery Plan, creating more NHS dental appointments over the next year.”

Labour has also promised to take ‘immediate action’ to provide care for those in most urgent need, and ‘long-term reform to restore NHS dentistry to all who need it’.

These plans include more funding for urgent NHS appointments and incentives for new dentists to work in areas with the greatest need, among other things.