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South Lakes MP Tim Farron has welcomed news that 17,000 new NHS dental places are being offered to patients currently on the waiting list. NHS Cumbria having secured £1.5 million from the government has now sent out over 17,000 letters to patients on the waiting list, offering them a chance to sign up with an NHS dentist.
Since the new dental contracts were introduced in 2006, Cumbria has seen an 11% fall in the number of patients being seen by an NHS dentist. During the same period, the North West as a whole saw a 3.1% rise. Almost 50% of South Lakes' residents do not have access to an NHS dentist, including hundreds of local children.
He has previously expressed his concern at the apparent failure of the NHS in Cumbria to ensure enough residents have access to NHS dentistry. The one-off funding was given to county health bosses by the Department of Health to help local people access a dentist. The cash has allowed more places to be secured at practices across the Cumbria that currently offer NHS dentistry. Priority will be given to people who have been on the waiting list the longest.
The MP said: “The news that 17,000 people will receive letters asking them to sign up to a dentist is very welcome but much more must be done. Everyone in South Lakeland should have access to an NHS dentist. We need a system to enable access to NHS dentistry that is easy, quick and accommodates the demands we have in the South Lakes. I want NHS Cumbria to find an NHS dentist for everyone on their list - and to make sure that their waiting list doesn't just include those people who have opted on to it, while ignoring all those families who have simply accepted their fate and asked to go on the waiting list."