BRADFORD MP Judith Cummins has called on Government Ministers to take urgent and drastic action to avert an unfolding crisis in NHS dentistry in Bradford.

The Bradford South Labour MP raised her concerns in a House of Commons debate.

The debate came in the wake of a Freedom of Information request submittted by the MP to Bradford Teaching Hospitals which revealed 190 children were admitted to hospital to undergo a tooth extraction under general anaesthesia from April to December 2016.

A BBC investigation last week revealed that of 2,500 dental practices listed on the NHS Choices website countrywide, half were not willing to accept new adult NHS patients and two-fifths were unwilling to take children as NHS patients.

The investigation also exposed that in Bradford out of 80 per cent of all its practices only three were accepting new adult patients with only seven taking on new child patients.

Speaking about the national figures, Mrs Cummins said: “This Government should be ashamed that almost 40,000 children were admitted to hospital to have multiple teeth extracted, under a general anaesthetic, due to tooth decay in the last year alone. On the Department of Health’s own figures, the average cost of a tooth extraction is £834. Overall, the NHS is calculated to have wasted over £50 million on tooth extractions.”

And she added: “Millions each and every year are being left without access to an NHS dentist. The human cost of this crisis is huge. Families, parents, young children, are suffering horrific, life-long and extreme damage to their teeth and their oral health. Stories of people resorting to pulling out their own teeth are increasingly commonplace. Images of young children, toddlers, with mouths full of rotten teeth is less and less of a rarity.”

Leeds Road dentist Naveed Ahmed said four out of five new child patients he sees have rotting teeth. One six-year-old has had 11 teeth out in the last year.

KF Hunjan 7 Associates, where he is based, is one of the few practices in the city currently taking on patients under 16.

He said: “The 2016 figures in the FoI are only for the kids who are in the system,” he said. “It could be five times as bad in reality for those needing decaying teeth out. They will be suffering, eventually the rotting teeth will crumble and die and not hurt so much but they will have been through pain first.

“It’s a big problem in Bradford. The Government must take a preventative approach. There also needs to be a media campaign.”

Watchdog Healthwatch Bradford has been  concerned for a number of years about the difficulties  local people experience in trying to find an NHS dentist. In 2016 it surveyed more than 1,000  people and found that 43 per cent of people spoken to did not have access to an NHS dentist.

Healthwatch manager Victoria Simmons said: “Week on week, we receive calls from local people who can’t find a dentist. There’s no central registry of dentists accepting patients and the data on NHS Choices is poor, so it’s really difficult for us to help people – but our volunteers assist by coming in to the office and working through the list of all local dentist practices, ringing them up to find out if there is any availability. Sometimes we find one or two practices who are taking people on a waiting or accepting children as NHS patients.

“But when our volunteer did her last ring round a fortnight ago, there was not a single practice in the Bradford District offering NHS appointments, either for adults or children.

“We’ve raised this issue with NHS England repeatedly, and have taken it through our local Overview and Scrutiny Committee whose members have also expressed concern about the impact this situation has on the health of our population.

“We’re looking at different ways of tackling the issue, and across West Yorkshire Healthwatch are working together on a project with NHS England and the Office of the Chief Dental Officer. We’re looking at whether it’s possible to increase capacity for dental care by extending the length of time between check-up appointments for adults with healthy teeth – currently the average across our region is less than 8 months, but NICE guidance suggests it could be much longer. Healthwatch are not giving up, and will continue to do what we can, both to help individuals and to put pressure on the system to meet the needs of local people."