THE lack of NHS dentists in Chard has been raised in the House of Commons as a crucial by-election in a neighbouring constituency approaches.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey used his appearance at this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQ) to stress how difficult Somerset residents were finding it to see a dentist on the NHS.

Sir Ed has visited Somerset on several occasions in the last month in support of Sarah Dyke, who is standing as his party’s candidate in the Somerton and Frome by-election triggered by the resignation of David Warburton.

The government said it was investing significant sums in training new doctors and dentists as part of its wider plan for the future of the NHS.

Sir Ed (the MP for Kingston and Surbiton) addressed his question on Wednesday, July 12 to deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden MP, who was standing in for prime minister Rishi Sunak.

He said: “In January, Emily booked an appointment with her local dentist in Chard, Somerset, for June 14, only to be told by her neighbour at the end of May that the surgery had closed in April.

“Now she doesn’t have a dentist. None of the remaining surgeries are taking on new patients.

“Emily says she has no idea what she’ll do. So can the deputy prime minister tell Emily and millions of people like her: when can they get an appointment with a local NHS dentist?”

The {my}dentist branch in Fore Street closed in March, and Chard House Dental Practice shut a month later. 

Official figures released by the House of Commons and the NHS reveal that 280,000 adults in Somerset have not been seen by an NHS dentist in the last two years – and 55 per cent of children haven’t seen an NHS dentist in the last 12 months.

Chard & Ilminster News: Sir Ed's comments came after two dental practices closed in Chard earlier this year.Sir Ed's comments came after two dental practices closed in Chard earlier this year. (Image: RADAR)

The Lib Dems have called for an emergency rescue plan for NHS dentistry, including increasing funding to boost the number of appointments, providing additional resources for mobile dental clinics and removing VAT on children’s toothbrushes and toothpaste.

Mr Dowden (who represents the Hertsmere constituency in Hertfordshire) said that the government was planning significant investment in the NHS under its 15-year plan, which was announced at the end of June.

He said: “Our NHS workforce plan is investing an extra £2.4bn into training and retaining crucial NHS staff, including dentists and GP.

“The number of dentists will rise by 40 per cent, and I would say to people across that constituency that the best way they can ensure better services for their NHS is to vote for Faye Purbrick, the Conservative candidate.”

Ms Purbrick is standing for the Tories in the Somerton and Frome by-election, which takes place on July 20.

Chard & Ilminster News: Somerton and Frome voters will go to the polls on July 20.Somerton and Frome voters will go to the polls on July 20. (Image: [A Media)

However, Chard is located in the neighbouring constituency of Yeovil, which is currently represented by Marcus Fysh MP.

Speaking after PMQ, Sir Ed said: “Sadly Emily’s story is far too common in rural communities across the country, from Somerset to Shropshire.

“Something has to change. Local NHS services are stretched far too thin, leaving millions of people unable to see a local GP or NHS dentist.

“The NHS must be protected, but under this Conservative Government, it has been left high and dry.

“This government is taking communities in Somerset for granted by refusing to invest properly in local health services. We urgently need more NHS dentists and GPs, as well as funding for crumbling hospitals.”

The full list of candidates standing in the Somerton and Frome by-election is as follows:

  • Lorna Clarke (Christian People’s Alliance)
  • Martin Dimery (Green)
  • Sarah Dyke (Liberal Democrats)
  • Bruce Evans (Reform UK)
  • Neil Guild (Labour)
  • Rosie Mitchell (Independent)
  • Faye Purbrick (Conservative)
  • Peter Richardson (UKIP)