A BRITISH Army veteran who waited for three years to secure an NHS dental appointment in Southport - and faced a £7,000 bill for the option of getting private treatment - has thanked the town’s MP Damien Moore for speaking up for him in Parliament and resolving the situation for him.
Mark Roberts served with distinction as a Sergeant in the Royal Tank Regiment, where he completed tours of duty in parts of the world including Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia.
In 2015, the 47-year-old suffered a number of serious injuries while on service. They include a bleed on the brain and were followed by effects including seizures and PTSD. He was subsequently discharged on medical grounds and has since been working hard on adjusting to civilian life. He was working for construction and facilities management firm Carillion in Scotland, until it collapsed and he has since moved to Southport.
He said: “I had some dental work done while I was up in Scotland. But since moving to Southport, I have not been able to get an NHS appointment anywhere. I have tried dentists across Southport. I have gone on waiting lists. I have tried dentists as far away as Liverpool.
“I have asked on Facebook if anyone knows of any NHS dentist places available. I asked dentist surgeries if they signed up to the Army Forces Covenant and had places for Armed Forces veterans.
“My stepson joined the Army, so I asked his dentist if I could take his place. They told me it doesn’t work like that. It was a real nightmare.
“I was in one dentist surgery where they told me there were no NHS places available but told me that I could go private if I wanted – and they quoted me £7,000! So I walked out.
“That’s when I contacted my MP Damien Moore. I thought it would take a few weeks or so until I heard back, but I had a reply from his office later the same day. A caseworker contacted me to say that Damien Moore had asked her to pursue the case as a matter of urgency.”
Southport MP Damien Moore then raised the issue in Parliament with the Defence Minister.
Speaking in the House of Commons on May 24, he asked: “My constituent Mark Roberts was discharged from the Royal Tank Regiment in 2015 on medical grounds. Despite his service to our country, he was on the NHS waiting list for dental treatment for three years. May I ask my Hon. Friend to see what more can be done to ensure that our veterans get access to the medical treatment that they deserve?”
Leo Docherty, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (jointly with the Ministry of Defence) replied: “I thank my Hon. Friend for the terrific work that he does to represent the interests of veterans in his constituency. I am concerned to hear the details about Mr Roberts. If my Hon. Friend forwards me the details, I will pursue that case with urgency.”
Mr Moore also contacted the NHS Chief Dental Officer to ask that the case be investigated as a priority. They provided Mr Roberts with the contact details of the NHS Dental Team which has subsequently found a Southport dentist to arrange the appointment needed.
Mark Roberts said: “Damien Moore is a big supporter of Armed Forces veterans as well as being my local MP here in Southport, so I thought it was worth trying to ask for his help. Within a week of contacting his office I was given an NHS place at a dentists’ surgery in Southport. They have been a real godsend. I never expected to get a response and to get a result so quickly. Having the support of Damien Moore and his team has been amazing. When he raised the issue in Parliament it was very humbling, it brought a tear to my eye. I just want to buy him and his team a pint the next time I can - it has been a massive weight off my shoulders.”