Lies, Falsehoods and Misrepresentations from Boris Johnson to Rishi Sunak

‎”There are record sums going into dentistry and indeed 500 more NHS dentists working today”

PM Rishi Sunak, Prime Minister’s Questions

Facts

During Prime Minister’s Questions, Rishi Sunak was asked about his plan for NHS dentistry. In response, he stated that there are “record sums going into dentistry” and “500 more NHS dentists working today.”

At the time Rishi Sunak made his statement, official figures for dentists performing NHS activity during 2022-23 had not yet been published. The only official NHS data available was for the year 2021-22 which showed an increase of 539 dentists performing NHS activity over the previous year. 

NHS data published in August 2023, states “24,151 dentists performed NHS activity during 2022-23, a decrease of 121 on the previous year”

The British Dental Association (BDA) has criticised Sunak, labelling the current exodus of NHS dentists, a “Crisis”.

Their figures show that the “unmet need for dentistry” is at a “record high” with 25% of the adult population in 2022 not being able to access dental care. 

Eddie Crouch, the Chair of the British Dental Association said, “The Prime Minister keeps boasting of 500 new dentists in the NHS – but in fact we have 500 doing just a single check-up a year.” 

Crucially, the NHS Digital figures only refer to the number of dentists who have carried out some NHS work over the year by headcount—they do not show the number of full-time equivalent dentists, so aren’t necessarily a reliable indicator of overall NHS dental capacity. We’ve been unable to find data on the number of full-time equivalent NHS dentists in England.

Full Fact gave its verdict on Sunak’s comment as follows “This isn’t right, according to the latest published statistics. This figure appears to refer to the increase in the number of dentists in England carrying out NHS work in 2021/22, not “this year”. New FOI data released by the British Dental Association suggests there may have been about 700 fewer NHS dentists in 2022/23, though this data may not be complete. Either way, a headcount of the number of dentists doing some NHS work doesn’t tell the full story about NHS dental capacity.” 

Verdict

The Prime Minister did not have the evidence to justify the claim that there were “500 more NHS dentists working today.” He was quoting data which had been accurate a year earlier. Official data has since been published that proves his statement to be false.

The Prime Minister was misleading the House of Commons. 

According to the Ministerial Code, “It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity.  Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister.” Rishi Sunak was misleading parliament in defiance of the Ministerial Code, a resignation offence.

We emailed Rishi Sunak’s office and Number 10 offering him the chance to respond. The email was received but, alas, no reply. 

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