For many years my own dentist, Ken Torlop, used to be in Winsford near Oaklands School.

Before I became an MP, I remember working in Crewe Magistrates’ Court as a barrister, when my toothache became so bad I had to leave mid-hearing to receive emergency treatment.

My NHS dentist was there for me when it mattered, and it’s important we tackle the present problems with the system to ensure that is the case for all who need it.

So, further to my recent campaigning on this issue in Westminster, I am glad to report there has been some significant progress.

As a result of the pandemic, there is a substantial backlog in routine dental procedures, such as fillings, caps, crowns or routine dental hygiene work.

A huge 230,000 dental appointments were lost as a result of the pandemic in Cheshire West & Chester between March 2020 and March 2021over 30 million across England.

Winsford Guardian: Edward Timpson MPEdward Timpson MP

The pace of recovery has been impacted by infection control measures, which have presented an unfortunate but necessary barrier to some practices carrying out more appointments, and there have been growing calls from the British Dental Association and MPs for reform to the contract between the NHS and dentists in England.

Dental staff in England have now been asked to deliver 85 per cent of the procedures in their contract between January and March 2022, rising to 100 per cent from April.

This sounds a tall order, but in a letter to MPs, the Minister for Patient Safety & Primary Care has now stated the Government’s intention to reform the contracts for NHS dental treatment – including the disincentives which mean dentists are paid similar rates whether they are doing one filling, or extensive dental work – and the Government announced an additional £50 million to provide up to 350,000 additional dental appointments in England before the end of the financial year, with £7.31 million of that being invested in the North West.

It is envisaged that this new investment will be spent before the end of this financial year to help alleviate short term pressures.

Funding will be targeted at groups ‘most in need of urgent treatment’: including our county’s children, people with learning disabilities, autism, or severe mental health problems.

The most common reason children receive a general anaesthetic in hospital is for tooth extraction. The legislation currently going through Parliament to fluoridate water will help, but other preventative measures need also to be taken.

For example, in some parts of the UK, young children brush their teeth under supervision at the start of each day after they arrive at nursery or school.

The Minister also affirmed the Government’s commitment to work with partners like the British Dental Association to help recover and reform NHS dentistry.

This will include looking 'at alternative ways of commissioning and to improve dental education and training'.

The General Dental Council has recently announced new sittings to begin reducing the backlog of examinations, and the Department of Health & Social Care is also taking action to address the issue, and has proposed changes to the Dentist Act 1984 to provide greater flexibility to expand and improve the registration options for all internationally qualified dentists.

If any of my constituents are unable to access an urgent dental appointment through a practice, I would urge them to contact 111 for assistance.

I will keep in close touch with health ministers so I can update you on these reforms and investments, and would again welcome hearing from any Eddisbury resident who has difficulty accessing NHS dentistry at edwardtimpson.com/contact, where you can also sign up to my Eddisbury Report e-newsletter.