Everybody should have the right to dental treatment when they need it.

That was a fundamental principle of the NHS founded by the 1945 Labour Government. Unfortunately, this principle has been undermined after 14 years of Tory rule.

Ninety percent of dental practices in England are closed to new NHS patients, creating ‘dental deserts’, including in Weaver Vale. People must either sign up to an expensive private treatment plan or neglect their teeth.

Out of desperation, some have even resorted to DIY dentistry after struggling with excruciating pain due to rotten teeth.

I was recently contacted by my constituent Allan from Northwich, whose experience is mirrored up and down the country.

Registered with a local NHS dentist for more than 10 years, Allan was advised to book a dental check-up after visiting a private hygienist.

When he tried to do so, Allan discovered he had been de-registered as he had not been for a check-up in over two years but only because, like everyone, he had been forced to stay away during the pandemic.

Allan was informed the dentist was not taking on new NHS patients, yet he could pay for a private check-up if he wished!

And a few months ago, I met the joint headteachers of Leftwich Community Primary School, who raised their desperate attempts to get NHS dental appointments for some of their pupils. They were going the extra mile to help children in our community but to no avail.

The problem is fewer and fewer dentists are willing to deliver a service under the terms of an outdated and unviable NHS contract.

Instead of reforming the contract, the Government has been happy to watch dentists leave the NHS in their droves while patients move across to private care.

My fear is the rest of the NHS could go the same way if the Tories get back in power at the next election. Expensive private treatment for those who can just about afford it while everyone else is left to rot.

As the founders of the NHS, only Labour has the political will to rebuild not only dental services but the whole of the health service.

On dentistry, we have pledged to provide 700,000 more NHS dental appointments a year to those in most urgent need, recruit more dentists to areas with severe shortages and protect children’s teeth.