The lack of access to NHS dentists has been a big problem for many in Andover, and I have been pushing hard for urgent action to improve the situation. 

Most recently, I brought together local dentists, health bosses and ministers to look at the challenges faced and how we can meet demand in the constituency. In parallel, the Government has been working on a comprehensive plan to improve and reform NHS dentistry nationally, and I’m pleased to say it has now been finalised and published. 

At its crux, the plan will deliver 2.5 million more appointments across the country — and faster, simpler and fairer access to patients. 

READ MORE: Health chiefs and MP vow to fill the gap of NHS dentists in Andover

A big challenge that has come up repeatedly in our meetings in Andover, was the recruitment and retention of NHS dentists, and our new plan addresses this. It consists of “Golden Hello” payments to get more dentists into the profession and new “patient premiums" to encourage dentists to take on new NHS patients. There is no time to waste, and I am heartened to see that these premiums begin from 1st March. We will also see a lot more dental training places, they will increase by 40 per cent. 

Dental vans will help deliver services to under-served areas — in Hampshire, our NHS trust is partnering with local charity Dentaid, and funding a new mobile dental clinic for new and expectant mothers, people at risk from homelessness, people on low incomes and benefits. We need these services in Andover and I am working with health bosses to get that to happen.   

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I have also been very keen to see a focus on prevention early in life — and this recovery plan emphasises good oral health from birth making sure children are cleaning and looking after their teeth properly by the time they reach primary school. 

Importantly, all this work begins immediately. Some £200m of government investment is going into the plan in the coming year, and the bonus payment scheme for dentists taking on NHS patients begins next month. 

Everyone who needs an NHS dentist in Andover should be able to access one, and our plan marks real progress.