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Welsh Government u-turns on dentistry target

July 18, 2012 5:11 PM

Following the publication of the Welsh Government's draft of the National Oral Health Plan, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, Kirsty Williams, has criticised the Welsh Government for u-turning over its dentistry target.

When Labour introduced the new dental contract in 2006, Rhodri Morgan, the then First Minister, told the Assembly that everyone who needed access to an NHS dentist would get it. In March, Kirsty Williams asked in First Minister's Questions for clarification on whether 100% was the Welsh Labour Government's target by the end of this Assembly. The First Minister confirmed this would be the case.

The publication released today makes no mention of this target and the Health Minister has refused to confirm the target still stands in an Assembly written question.

Kirsty Williams commented:

"Dentistry in Wales has been overlooked by the Welsh Labour Government for too long. The Welsh Liberal Democrat Dentistry survey of all dental practices showed that only 37% are currently accepting new NHS patients. This is a shocking state of affairs and shows that poorer patients are being disadvantaged. There are clearly huge problems that need to be addressed, but this Welsh Labour Government seems to have no intention at all in tackling these issues.

"The First Minister told me in March that his Government's target of achieving 100% access to NHS dentists in Wales still applies. However, I have since written to the Health Minister asking for her to reiterate this pledge, something she was unable to do. Not once in the Welsh Government's document does it mention this target, in fact it doesn't mention any measurable targets at all. I am deeply worried that we are yet again seeing another u-turn from this Welsh Labour Government who have presided over a dentistry service that is failing the people of Wales.

"Our survey also stated that waiting lists remain stubbornly high - almost two thirds of dentists accepting NHS patients have a waiting list of over two months. It is simply unacceptable that people have to wait this long so see an NHS dentist. In one extreme case, a dental practice had a waiting list of six years before a new NHS patient could be seen.

"Once again this Health Minister is stating that it is up to Local Health Board's to find a solution to her problems. This is not good enough, our NHS needs strong leadership from this Government, instead we get a Minister who continues to hide behind LHBs.

"The Welsh Liberal Democrats will ensure that the Welsh Labour Government will be held to account so it will not be allowed to continue to overlook this vital NHS service."