SENIOR council figures have said they are “hammering” health bosses to improve dental services in Shropshire.

The struggle to get an appointment with an NHS dentist was highlighted again at a Shropshire Council meeting on Thursday, with councillors saying the local picture was a reflection of a wider “national crisis”.

A motion on the topic from the opposition Liberal Democrat group urged the council to push for improvements from the Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin Integrated Care System (ICS), which is responsible for planning and delivering local health services.

However the motion failed to win support, with the council’s ruling Conservatives saying the matter was already in hand.

It comes after a report published last month revealed the impact of the pandemic was comparable to every dental surgery in Shropshire having been closed for a year, with backlogs and recruitment highlighted among the major areas of concern.


The motion was proposed by Councillor Alex Wagner, on behalf of Councillor Bernie Bentick who was not able to attend the meeting.

Councillor Wagner said: “Health services across Shropshire have been a hot topic of concern and discussion as of late.

“We have at this council had these debates before, but a part of the package which has received less attention is the state of dental services in Shropshire.

“This motion seeks to see what this council can do to address the increasingly inaccessible state of those services.”

The motion called on the council to liaise with the ICS to “ensure there is sufficient funding and dentist availability”, and demand that the ICS update its records of dentist availability across the county.

It also said local dental provision should be regularly scrutinised by the council’s health scrutiny committee.

Councillor Wagner said it was particularly concerning that only 50 of the county’s 68 NHS dental practices were listed on the NHS’s ‘find a dentist’ site.

Of these, he said only six were accepting new child patients, the nearest to Shrewsbury being Bayston Hill, and only five accepting adults, with the nearest to Shrewsbury being in Telford.

Councillor Julia Evans said: “This is not just a local crisis, it’s a national crisis.

“You can see how badly Shrewsbury and Shropshire are served by the NHS dentistry but it’s really not worth dentists being in the NHS – they are paid far more being a private enterprise.

“We have a dentist in Radbrook who was taking NHS children only, but has now stopped. He said it’s really not worth his while.”

Councillor Evans also said the lack of dentist availability was impacting other health services, including cases of people with abscesses being forced to go to A&E.

This was echoed by Councillor Kate Halliday, who said: “The impact of poor dental health on children and adults is very severe, it impacts not just physical health but also mental health, and disrupts the whole health system locally.”

Labour group leader Councillor Julia Buckley said dentist shortages were a “national disgrace”, and a result of the government’s “choice to deliberately and systematically withdraw funding from the NHS”.

The council’s ruling Conservatives said that while they agreed the state of dentist services in the county was a major concern, the authority was already doing all it could to push for improvements.

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Councillor Cecilia Motley, cabinet member for adult social care, public health and communities, pointed out that the issue was discussed last month by the council’s Health and Wellbeing Board and was “very much on the radar of the ICS”.

She said she would however request that the ICS ensure records are updated to reflect current dentist availability.

Councillor Motley added: “Provision of dental services is, in any case, going to the health scrutiny committee.

“So while Councillor Bentick is quite right to draw attention to the state of dental surgery around the country, we have to deal with Shropshire here. We are doing our very best and we are monitoring it very carefully.”

Council leader Councillor Lezley Picton said: “I don’t see the point approving a motion for things we are already doing.

“We are hammering the ICS to try and ensure we get the best services for Shropshire.”

The motion fell with 26 votes for and 38 against.