Fifty percent of people unable to access NHS dental care is not a good-news story. Councillor Ruth Milsom
Councillor Ruth Milsom

The Status Quo in South Yorkshire

Figures analysed in early 2024 show that roughly half the adult population of South Yorkshire is not able to access a timely NHS dental appointment. This is considerably better than the national picture, but presents a bleak picture of how low the government has allowed NHS dentistry to fall. Although more children in South Yorkshire are accessing NHS dentists than elsewhere in England, child tooth decay remains more prevalent in the region than anywhere else nationally.

Robust Plan

In scrutinising the South Yorkshire Integrated Care Board’s ‘Joint Forward Plan’ for healthcare delivery across South Yorkshire (August 2023), Ruth highlighted the dire lack of access to NHS dental appointments, and insisted that the SYICB bring forward a robust plan to address the known issues.

Public Involvement

In early 2024 Ruth – in her role as Chair of the Sheffield Health Scrutiny board – commissioned a citywide survey to gather evidence on local access to NHS dentistry.

To involve members of the public more directly and enable direct dialogue with SYICB commissioners, she also scheduled an interactive workshop, to allow people to relate their experiences and put forward their ideas for improvement.


Putting local NHS dentistry under the spotlight confirms that local health bosses, whilst they could theoretically do more to bolster provision, do not have sufficient money or power to turn things around for Sheffield and South Yorkshire.

Ruth argues that a Labour government will enact a rescue plan for NHS dentistry and reform the inadequate contract so that dentists are incentivised to work in the NHS, and appointments are available to all.

In the meantime, Ruth is urging the SYICB to make the case to the present Conservative government on behalf of the people of Sheffield and South Yorkshire, and argue for immediate emergency measures to increase NHS provision.

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