§ 1. Charlotte Atkins (Staffordshire, Moorlands)
How many dentists there are per head of population (a) in the UK and (b) in North Staffordshire health authority; and what impact Government policies are expected to have on these figures. 
§ The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Denham)
The number of general dental service dentists per 100,000 of the population at the end of September 1998 was 35 for England and the United Kingdom, and 24 for North Staffordshire, excluding salaried dentists. The Government are funding six Investing in Dentistry bids in North Staffordshire, which will increase the number of dentists by six and allow 16,000 people to receive national health service care.
§ Charlotte Atkins
I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. I was horrified, when I was elected in May 1997, to find that there were no NHS dentists in my constituency. Since then, the very good work of John 708 Rose and Liam Stubbs in the local health authority has attracted two more dentists to my area, but we are very much running to stand still. What are the Government doing to encourage more dentists to move into areas outside those covered by the dental schools? More dentists are especially badly needed in health authorities such as North Staffordshire, where dental health is so poor.
§ Mr. Denham
A number of initiatives are under way to meet that need, and I congratulate my hon. Friend on her close involvement in this matter in her constituency. One of the most important initiatives is the Investing in Dentistry process, from which North Staffordshire has benefited already, and I know that two further bids are under consideration in my hon. Friend's constituency.
So far, 242 Investing in Dentistry bids have been funded across the country, enabling another 600,000 new patients to receive national health service care. It is also possible, of course, to develop salaried dentist services in areas where other dentists cannot be attracted to practise.
§ Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)
Is the Minister aware of the scandal that has developed over the past few months which means that people in Staffordshire have to wait 15 months or two years for dental and other operations at Good Hope hospital? In contrast, people in Birmingham have to wait only five or six months for the same operations.
Will the Minister guarantee that he will look into that scandal and find out exactly why such a discrepancy has developed under this so-called "caring" Labour Government.
§ Mr. Denham
Inequities in health care between different parts of the country were a feature of the development of the national health service under the previous Administration. I shall, of course, be more than happy to look into local cases brought to my attention by any hon. Member, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that, with the extra investment through modernisation to tackle the pressure of waiting lists, the national health service in his area will do far better than it did under the previous Conservative Government. That applies in all other parts of the country as well.