A recent article and press release by the Citizens Advice Bureau highlights how UK citizens are struggling to even find an NHS Dentist and it urges Primary Care Trusts to spend newly allocated resources to improve access.

It should be noted that successive Governments have failed not just the public in this area, but dentists as well. The Government needs to ideally work to a situation where more dentists divulge more time to the NHS Dentistry sector . It is a two way street, when we see better pay and conditions and more resources given to dentists, you will see many more moving back to the NHS, or at least dividing their time between private dentistry and public NHS Dentistry.

Going back to a previous survey, the Ipsos MORI survey found that lack of access is the most common reason cited by people in England and Wales for not seeing an NHS dentist since April 2006, along with not needing treatment. It was mentioned by 31% of respondents in England and Wales who have not been to an NHS dentist since April 2006. This is the equivalent of approximately 7.4 million people who have not been to an NHS dentist since April 2006 because of difficulties in finding one. Of these, the equivalent of approximately 4.7 million have sought private treatment instead and the equivalent of approximately 2.7 million have gone without treatment altogether.

The research also reveals that the problem is more evident in the South West (53%) and the North West (39%).

Citizens Advice Chief Executive David Harker said:

“These figures show the scale of the lack of access to NHS dentistry, reflecting the evidence which bureaux across England and Wales have been reporting ever since the early 90’s.  People on low incomes are particularly affected as private treatment is just not an option.

“We are therefore delighted that the Government has responded to the problem by announcing an 11% increase in funding for NHS dentistry in England from 2008. This has the potential to deliver real improvements in access to dentistry but it needs to be carefully targeted on those areas where patients are experiencing the most acute problems.

“Primary Care Trusts have a duty to ensure that dentistry services meet local requirements and it is vital that they start planning how to allocate their additional funds now. We also hope that the Welsh Assembly Government will follow suit and increase funding for NHS dentistry in Wales.

“Patients who have been trying to find an NHS dentist should contact NHS Direct to find their local dental helpline now in order to benefit from any new services that are set up.”

Case studies

A CAB in Cornwall reported a client who rang the helpline saying he was prepared to travel anywhere in the county to find an NHS dentist.  He was told no dentists in Cornwall were currently taking on NHS patients, and was put on the waiting list with no idea how long he might have to wait.

The same bureau reported a client on a low income who had to travel by both bus and train, stretching his limited finances, to the nearest NHS dentist for an emergency appointment.  Delays in public transport meant he was 15 minutes late and was turned away and told he would have to book another slot at 8.30 am the following day.

A CAB in North Yorkshire reported a pensioner on a low income who needed emergency dental treatment in hospital. They advised her she would need further treatment and would need to find an NHS dentist. There were two available in the area but both have 12 month waiting lists.

A CAB in Hampshire rang the helpline on behalf of a client and her disabled husband who wanted to find a dentist.  They found that the nearest dentist with NHS capacity is now – approximately 17 miles away with no public transport to get there. One year ago the closest NHS dentist was – approximately 10 miles away.

More and more we are needing Foreign Dentists to move to the UK to live and work as dentists. It can be  win, win, for the UK public and for dental professionals from Europe wishing to practice here as dental associates.

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This entry was posted on Monday, February 1st, 2010 at 2:39 am.
Categories: NHS Dentistry.

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