MPs have called on the Health Secretary Matt Hancock to stop backing firms profiting from NHS shortages.
He has been sent an open letter after we reported that he endorsed a private dentistry firm which exploits patients no longer able to access an NHS dentist.
The Mirror revealed that he was backing Access MyDentist which targets areas of his constituency with big shortages offering more expensive private work.
Written by Bolton MP Yasmin Qureshi and signed by 17 Labour MPs, the letter comes as new data shows more than a million new patients tried and failed to secure access to an NHS dentist last year.
Half of all NHS surgeries are closed to new patients because of a Tory funding crisis, it is estimated.
In Mr Hancock’s West Suffolk constituency, fewer than one in 10 is taking new adults and some patients face a 20-mile round trip for a place.
Access MyDentist is expanding in such areas, promoted as “almost as cheap as the NHS”.
Visiting an Access MyDentist surgery in rural Mildenhall, Suffolk, Mr Hancock said: “Companies like MyDentist play a really important role in delivering a good service to keep our nation’s teeth strong.”
The letter says: “We felt compelled to write to you having seen the media coverage of your recent comments regarding problems with access to NHS dentistry in Mildenhall in your constituency.
It continues: “As MPs representing areas facing significant challenges with accessing NHS dentistry, we were extremely disappointed to hear your reaction to the news that MyDentist tries to profit from a shortage of NHS dentists in the area by encouraging patients to turn to a ‘value’ range of private treatments instead.
“Unless the system is appropriately funded and commissioned the problems facing patients in constituencies like ours will soon be shared by patients in every corner of England.”
Data published last week has shown sweeping cuts to NHS budgets.
In 2010 the Government provided £42 per person to cover dental care for every adult and child in England. By 2018 this had fallen by £12 in real terms, a drop of nearly 30%.
The BDA’s chair of General Dental Practice Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen said: “MPs from across England have sent the Health Secretary a vital message.
“Now he needs to explain why on his watch dental patients in pain are unable to secure the care they need.
“The public value choice between NHS and private dentistry. But thanks to underfunding and a failed contract, over a million new patients across England have been left with no choice at all.
“The Government can’t keep pretending that access problems will be solved with warm words. The Health Secretary has a duty to ensure that all who rely on NHS services can access them.”