Blair grilled on NHS dentistry

The Prime Minister Tony Blair today admitted the Government was facing difficulties in increasing the number of NHS dentists.

He made the admission as he answered questions from members of the public during an appearance on Sky News.

The UK is facing a shortage of NHS dentists because many are moving over to the private sector to take advantage of higher wages. Foreign dentists have been brought in from abroad in an attempt to plug the gap.

Taken to task on NHS dentistry by a member of the audience, Mr Blair said: “It has proved a lot more difficult to recruit people into NHS dentistry than we thought. That is why we have to take people in from abroad now which causes its own problems. The difficulty is training a dentist takes quite a long time.

He added: “There is no alternative but to recruit more dentists and we have got to recruit them not just by training more here, but also recruiting them from abroad”.

The Prime Minister appeared on two question and answer sessions hosted by Sky News on Wednesday, to hear the concerns of the public in the run up to the general election.

He answered questions on Labour’s health and crime policies in a return to his so-called ‘masochism strategy’.

During the first programme, broadcast from the University Hospital of Coventry and Warwickshire, Mr Blair also addressed criticism from the Public Accounts Committee that Government initiatives had not taken the pressure off A&E departments.

He said: “If we talk to people in A&E departments, they would say there has been a marked improvement in the last few years. I know the targets are not popular with A&E people, but when I talk to them they do say that having a target has been one part of focus.”

Mr Blair has previously appeared on Richard and Judy and Channel Five’s The Wright Stuff, where he was infamously accosted by housewife Maria Hutchings over the phasing out of special needs schools.

On another Channel Five appearance he was grilled by nurse Marion Brown on whether he would wash hospital patients for five pounds an hour.

Conservative Party leader Michael Howard and Liberal Democrat counterpart Charles Kennedy have also appeared on Channel Five in a similar set up and plan to do so again at a later date.