HC Deb 11 July 1972 vol 840 cc1386-7
12. Dr. Summerskill

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he expects the report of the Working Party on the Dental Services; and whether he will make a statement.

Sir K. Joseph

The working party has much ground to cover and I cannot yet forecast a date for a final report; but I have told the working party that I will at any time consider any interim recommendations it may wish to make.

Dr. Summerskill

Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the dental service is in a state of decay, that an increasing number of dentists are opting out of National Health Service to take up part-time or full-time private practice, and that there is a shortage of manpower and woman power in the dental service? Has he read the two reports which show that the dental health of the nation is in decline and that 25 per cent. of the children who are now five years old will require dentures of one kind or another by the time they are 20?

Sir K. Joseph

It is by no means new that the dental health of this country gives grave cause for worry. I do not accept the hon. Lady's diagnosis, but I have been sufficiently worried to embark on a deep and searching examination, with the British Dental Association, into what our policy should be in the near future to improve dental treatment of the public.

Dr. Stuttaford

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the hon. Lady is right, and that the dental service is not only in decay but has crumbled, particularly in those cases which require difficult treatment, namely the old, the infirm, children, and the disabled, who create problems for the dentist? He sees them at a financial loss to himself.

Sir K. Joseph

It is true that there is a problem in that in some areas some dentists will not give the more complex treatment under the National Health Service. That is one of the main subjects on the agenda for discussion between the Government and the British Dental Association. But my hon. Friend is wrong to support the hon. Lady's general proposition, because all the statistics of treatment show that the dental service is improving, though not improving nearly fast enough.

Mr. Robert C. Brown

Does the right hon. Gentleman still hold to the view which he expressed in this House some months ago, namely, that increasing dental charges gives people an incentive to take care of their teeth?

Sir K. Joseph

Yes, Sir.