HC Deb 01 February 1972 vol 830 cc228-9
16. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will take steps to arrange for the provision of facilities for emergency dental treatment over holiday periods.

49. Mr. Edward Lyons

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will take steps to provide funds for the operation of an emergency dental service in Bradford.

Sir K. Joseph

No, Sir: I know of no evidence that demand for emergency dental treatment at week-ends and public holidays is sufficient to justify the cost of maintaining a standby service.

Mr. Dormand

That is a disappointing reply. Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is illogical that doctors, chemists and others are required to operate an emergency service but that dentists are not? Is he aware that dentists are willing to undertake such a service provided they receive financial assistance from the National Health Service?

Sir K. Joseph

I have no evidence that there is an acute need, particularly since I understand that most dentists are willing to give emergency treatment, if approached, at their homes.

Mr. Lyons

Is the Minister aware that that is not the case in Bradford, that there have been complaints of an inability to obtain treatment over holiday periods, and that dentists in Bradford are willing to work such a service, for which premises are available? In those circumstances, and in view of the small amount of money involved, will not the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the matter?

Sir K. Joseph

I am aware that proposals for a standby service in Bradford foundered on a question of finance, but I am not satisfied that the need for such a service in Bradford is great enough to justify public expenditure. However, if the hon. Gentleman cares to send me details I will study them.

Dr. Summerskill

Will the Minister bear in mind the serious situation caused not only by a shortage of dentists throughout the country but by the increasing number who are opting out of the National Health Service? Will he take urgent steps to discover why they are opting out and to remedy the situation?

Sir K. Joseph

Yes, Sir. I am studying the allegations about deficiencies in the service in certain areas. But I must emphasise that over the bulk of the country it is providing more treatment than ever for the public. If the hon. Lady has any particular point in mind, perhaps she will send the information to me.