The alarm has been raised over the huge numbers of people failing to visit an NHS dentist in large parts of Bradford.
Only 46.2 per cent of people have seen a dentist over the last two years in outlying areas of the city, a proportion far lower than the national average.
Yet, in the centre of Bradford, no fewer than 90 per cent have made an appointment in that period – the best record anywhere in the country.
Health sources suggested the high numbers visiting a dentist in central areas follows significant investment over the last decade.
Up to five new practices have opened, signing up hundreds of new patients and delivering a performance that has put most of England to shame.
Jamie Reed, Labour’s health spokesman, warned that – in some parts of the country – a lack of NHS dentists was contributing to bulging A&E departments He said: “The Government must help patients to register with NHS dentists and make sure places are available right across the country.
“Nurses have repeatedly warned ministers that severe toothache – in patients without a dentist – is driving more and more people to A&E in agony. It is wholly avoidable.”
The vast disparity in NHS dentistry is revealed in new figures setting out performance in each clinical commissioning group (CCG) area.
Bradford Districts CCG covers areas including Bingley, Shipley, Saltaire, Heaton and Tong, serving a total population of 330,000.
However, confusingly – unlike the primary care trusts (PCTs) they replaced – the GP-led CCGs have no responsibility for dental services in their areas.
Instead, that role lies with NHS England, the London-based body set up to run the health service at arms length from ministers at the department of health (DH).
An NHS spokesman agreed there was “a variation in levels of commissioned activity” in Bradford, but insisted action was being taken to address it.
He added: “Plans are in place to address this disparity and NHS England (West Yorkshire) has recently commissioned some additional access in Bradford.”
However, he was unable to say whether – in plain English – this meant extra practices, or paying for extra NHS patients at existing surgeries.
Across England, 56.1 per cent of the population has seen a dentist in the past two years – a proportion virtually unchanged since 2006.
Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven CCG is bang on the average (56.5 per cent), while Calderdale (63.3 per cent) and North Kirklees (65.2 per cent) perform better.
The statistics come only weeks after the Scottish Government hailed a big leap in the number of patients registered with NHS dentists north of the border.
About 91 per cent of children and 82 per of adults are now registered with dentists, after a big cash injection.