Petition to enable free dental care for cancer patients signed by 160,000

Petition to enable free dental care for cancer patients signed by 160,000

The petition by Michelle Solak-Edwards asking the Government to introduce free dental care for cancer patients has been signed by 159,679 people. Her MP, Kate Green, raised the matter with the health secretary and a meeting with minister Jo Churchill, whose remit covers both cancer and dental care, has been agreed and will take place on February 26 in Westminster.

The link to the petition is here https://www.change.org/p/rt-hon-matt-hancock-free-dental-treatment-for-cancer-patients-change-the-law 

In setting up her petition Michelle, from Manchester, pointed out that chemotherapy and radiotherapy can cause either temporary or lifelong side effects and dental issues can be one such side effect. If somebody is diagnosed with cancer, they are exempt from prescription charges for a set period, however, for dental care, there is no financial help unless on certain benefits - and not everybody qualifies.

She wrote: “Many cancer patients, who have previously had little or no dental issues, experience loss or crumbling of teeth together with a whole host of other dental problems that occur during or after treatment for cancer. The cost of dental work can be overwhelming, even with care on the NHS.”

She also pointed out that many cancer patients suffer a significant decrease in household income, during and for a significant period after treatment has ended.  This is at a time when having cancer can be all consuming and incredibly stressful, so to have additional financial burdens can be devastating. 

The petition quickly attracted tens of thousands of signatures and was raised in the House of Commons by her MP, Kate Green, who drew health secretary, Matt Hancock’s attention to the need for dental care for cancer patients. She said there was ‘no automatic route’ for oncologists to refer cancer patients for dental check-ups, and ‘yet chemotherapy can have a deleterious effect on dental health’. She added: ‘patients also struggle to find NHS dentists due to a shortage of staff.’

As a result of this question and the health secretary’s positive reply, the Under-Secretary of State for Health & Social Care, Jo Churchill MP, has agreed to meet Michelle and Kate Green MP on February 26 in Westminster.  Dr Mohsan Ahmad (Chair of the Greater Manchester Local Dental Network) cannot attend the meeting but he has given her documentation that not only explains why dentists support this campaign but also includes details of a training package that has recently been introduced in the Greater Manchester area, delivered to dental practices, specifically outlining the special care and needs required by cancer patients. 

At the meeting, Michelle will be discussing the need for provision of free dental costs for all cancer patients, mirroring the exemption for prescription charges whereby costs are waived for a period of 5 years from diagnosis (renewable if treatments for cancer are ongoing).

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