Campaigners are calling for newly-qualified dentists to "give back" and support NHS dentistry for a period of five years following their training.

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt raised the issue of access to NHS dental appointments to Rishi Sunak at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday (January 24).

The MP highlighted how students train for five years to become a dentist, with their training heavily subsidised, but can immediately go into private practice or go abroad, without "giving anything back" to the NHS.

He asked the Prime Minister for these dentists to commit to working in the NHS for five years.

Rishi Sunak agreed to explore a "tie-in", for which he will launch a consultation later in the year.

Ipswich Star: Tom Hunt raised the issue in Prime Minister's QuestionsTom Hunt raised the issue in Prime Minister's Questions (Image: UK Parliament)

Mark Jones, campaign group Toothless in Suffolk co-founder, agrees with this in principle, but is calling for "radical reform" to the General Dental Services (GDS) contract.

He says the contract does not offer fair pay or incentives for NHS dentists, and many choose to leave for private practice.

This issue has caused a crisis in dentistry, with the Ipswich Star reporting in September "alarming figures" that show around a third of the Suffolk population was not able to get a dentist appointment, compared to 9% for the rest of England.

Mr Jones said: "I am fortunate to have an NHS dentist, but I am fighting for those that don't because I hate to see injustice, and this is one of the worst health injustices we have seen for a while.

"I regularly speak to patients with horror stories. It is an absolute travesty.

"We do not have a shortage of dentists, we have a shortage of dentists choosing to work in the NHS under the General Dental Services (GDS) contract. The contract is not fit for purpose.

 "The issue is nothing new in dentistry. We see newly qualified dentists being offered 'golden handshakes' by private practices who want them to work for them in private dentistry.

"We take the view that there is nothing wrong per-se in this, but we must see a proper framework that those who are willing to participate in a scheme that provides NHS dentistry straight out of training.

"The important thing is that they are paid a good salary to make it worth their while, to have a three- or five-year term where they give back."