The ‘twin crisis’ of affordability and access hitting NHS dental patients

Issues highlighted to Healthwatch England have been shared with the PA news agency.

The ‘twin crisis’ of affordability and access hitting NHS dental patients

The NHS is facing a “twin crisis” of affordability and access, a watchdog has said.

Here are some of the issues highlighted to Healthwatch England and shared with the PA news agency.

– People are waiting for “years” to get NHS dental care

Someone who works at a dental practice in Cornwall said: “I work for a mixed NHS and private dental practice.

“We have in excess of 8,000 patients and only two dentists, the waiting list for NHS dentist is years and we have so many enquiries every day and unable to help.

“The emergency dental helpline do not offer patients without a dentist the care they need – it really needs to be looked at.”

– Delays are causing serious problems

General view of dentist at work
Dentists are in demand (Rui Vieira/PA)

“I ended up taking too many paracetamol and had to go to A&E on the advice of NHS111.

“I ended up on a drip for 36 hours and have finally come home.

“I still do not have a dentist and I am still in pain.”

– Healthwatch raised concern that people are being “pressured” to get private dental care

One patient in Bristol reported: “I have had a problem as I lost a filling, and now the tooth has broken off completely – although not in pain, it’s making it difficult for me to eat.

“My dental practice has told me that they only have appointments for serious cases.

“However, the same practice is sending me emails encouraging me to pay for private treatments.”

– Some people who are entitled to free NHS dental care have been unable to get an appointment, including pregnant women and children

Dental X-Ray
You’re entitled to free NHS dental treatment if you’re pregnant (Matthew Fearn/PA)

“They have tried to register with many dentists in Watford but have been rejected by all of them, they therefore contacted us to ask how they could get help with this situation”.

– Healthwatch raised concern that some practices are shutting down or going “completely” private

A patient on the Isle of Wight told Healthwatch: “My dentist went back to Bulgaria in 2016 and ever since no dentist has been willing to take me as a new patient on the Isle of Wight.

“The results are three teeth almost missing, two others chipped and constant pain with several abscesses.

“It’s getting hard to chew and even to speak as I am missing a front tooth.

“I don’t have the means to go private which is the only option offered to me – it’s scandalous.”

– Healthwatch also raised concerns about patients facing difficulties in accessing emergency care

A dentist’s chair
Accessing emergency dental care can be an issue (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“The number you’re told to ring answers straight away but then puts you on hold, listening to music, I was waiting for 95 mins solid using my landline and mobile.

“After eventually getting through was told no appointments were available and to ring the following day and go through the same scenario.

“I think this is absolutely ridiculous that they keep you on hold for this long and paying for the call.”

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