A PLAN to improve access to dentists in Bradford is being worked on by NHS England following concerns raised by an MP and a health watchdog.

Bradford South Labour MP Judith Cummins has welcomed news that the NHS is working on a scheme to improve access to primary care dentistry in her constituency and other areas.

Ms Cummins met recently with Healthwatch Bradford, the independent watchdog for health and social care, about the initial findings of its project on access to NHS dentists and to discuss how they could work together to improve services.

She said: "I’m pleased to be working together with Healthwatch to focus attention on this issue and to get improvements in access to NHS dental services in Bradford."

Minister of State for Community and Social Care Alistair Burt has written to Ms Cummins about concerns she first raised at Prime Minister’s Question Time.

Ms Cummins said: "Back in January I challenged the Prime Minister about the lack of availability of NHS dentists in Bradford.

"It is shocking that 46 per cent of five-year-old children in Bradford suffer from tooth decay, compared with 28 per cent across England, and less than half the children living in Bradford have seen a dentist in the last two years.

"I said that I wanted a better deal for my constituents so I’m pleased to see that there is now an acknowledgement of the problem."

Ms Cummins said NHS England and the West Yorkshire Local Dental Network (LDN) were now working on a plan to improve access to primary care dentistry in West Yorkshire.

The LDN is proposing to run pilot projects in Bradford South, Bradford City and North Kirklees, although details of those have not yet been released.

"This pilot programme is a step in the right direction, but it needs to follow through into a long term solution to the problem," said the MP.

The scale of the issue was highlighted by more than 1,000 responses that Healthwatch Bradford received in its study about the difficulties people have finding an NHS dentist.

Andrew Jones, manager of Healthwatch Bradford said, "A large majority of those who had a dentist were very satisfied with their dental care, but nearly half of the people we spoke to did not have a dentist but wanted one.

"People told us that they couldn’t find a dentist taking NHS patients or had been told that the nearest one was in Leeds or Halifax.

"Some had been put on a waiting list for months leaving people in desperate need - we found that ten per cent of people needed to use emergency dental treatment because they couldn’t find a regular dentist."