A SOMERSET MP has welcomed a £50million boost to help clear a backlog of dental appointments.

The Government has provided the funding to secure up to 350,000 additional dental appointments for those suffering with oral pain, disease and infections.

Many dental practices had to reduce their capacity during the pandemic so they could adhere to strict infection prevention control.

In November 2021, control measures for practices were eased and since the start of 2022, the NHS has required dental practices to operate at 85% of their pre-pandemic contracted activity.

The South West has been allocated £4,726,000 of the £50million.

Children, people with learning disabilities, autism, or severe mental health problems, will be prioritised as part of a dentistry treatment push over the coming months, with the one-off funding available until the end of the financial year.

But MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, Ian Liddell-Grainger, has said the situation must be reviewed in April 2022 to see what progress has been made.

"My postbag continues to fill with approaches from constituents who are in desperate need of dental care but simply haven’t been able to obtain appointments,” he said.

"The funding means the Government has recognised the problem and has taken steps to alleviate it.

“I know dentists will be doing their utmost to bring their lists up to date, but we must monitor that progress and be ready to press for additional funding if it becomes clear at a later date that more urgent support is necessary.”

Levels of urgent treatment recovered to pre-pandemic levels by December 2021, but minister acknowledged that the additional support is needed to clear the appointment backlog that has built up.

Chief Dental Officer for England Sara Hurley said: “Dental services are a vital part of the NHS providing oral health care to all age groups, and that’s why we have taken this unprecedented action to boost NHS dental services.

“More than 600 urgent dental health hubs were rapidly ramped up during the pandemic to deliver urgent care for patients, and the NHS is now getting key services like dentistry back to pre-pandemic levels – injecting an extra £50 million into routine services will help provide check-ups and treatment for hundreds of thousands of people.”

Dentists involved in the scheme will be paid more than a third on top of their normal sessional fee for delivering this care outside of core hours, such as early morning and weekend work.

Minister for Primary Care, Maria Caulfield, added: “Access to NHS dentistry has been given a much needed boost with an extra £50 million announced for NHS dental care services which will urgently give more people access to vital dental care when they need it.

“Through the pandemic, we have prioritised urgent dental needs, vulnerable patients and free treatment for children and thanks to the hard work of staff, the delivery of urgent care is back to pre-pandemic levels.

"We are now working with the dental sector to recover and reform services and this £50 million boost will help with that recovery.”

The NHS in England invests £2.3 billion on dentistry every year.