A two-year wait to see a dentist – that’s the reality for some NHS dental patients; even those who are lucky enough to be registered in a cabinet.
Places available for NHS contracted dental care in north Northamptonshire are hard to come by as people scramble to find places in consulting rooms.
In March, figures revealed that more than half of adults in Northamptonshire had not seen a dentist in the past two years, with the British Dental Association warning that access to dental offices had collapsed across the country. England. The clear message is that the impact of the pandemic on the country’s oral health will be felt “for years to come”.
Healthwatch Northamptonshire, the independent health and social services champion in the county, worked with residents.
Its director of research and communications, Jo Spenceley, said: ‘We have seen a worrying increase in the number of people struggling to access NHS dental care and have discussed these concerns with the implementation team. NHS England Regional Dentistry Department.
“The team has listened to these valid concerns and reassured us that they are doing what they can to encourage dentists to prioritize the most essential treatments, including treating those most vulnerable and at risk as well as the most urgent cases.
‘The coronavirus pandemic has reduced the capacity of all dentists and NHS England is working with dentists to restore capacity, but this remains below pre-pandemic levels due to the additional cleaning and infection prevention processes required.
‘Routine NHS dental care is still not available to many and although the NHS England regional team are looking for ways to fill the gaps, the way NHS dentistry is commissioned may deter some dentists from working with the NHS. Reforms to the commissioning of dental contracts are clearly needed.
Healthwatch Northamptonshire has been contacted by patients from the north of the county describing problems with the service.
• One person from Corby said she started looking for a new dentist just as the country went into lockdown and no one would hire them. During locking, the condition of their teeth deteriorated further to the point that the need became “critical” as their teeth “were breaking all over” and their fillings were exposed. Although they have several teeth in need of emergency work and have called dentists several times, they said that “no one was willing to take them”, that dentists could not help them unless. that they did not suffer and that they suggested to be temporarily blocked in the stores. The person was concerned that the damage to her teeth would worsen and that she could lose her teeth if left untreated, as well as being embarrassed by the appearance of her front teeth. They said they were on a waiting list but were told it could be another year before they could be hired. They cannot afford to go private.
• A GP practice in Corby contacted us to help us locate a dentist for a patient. The patient had broken his front teeth and could not find an NHS dentist. While the patient was not in pain, he had difficulty eating and suffered from anxiety and depression due to his appearance.
• A person from Kettering had called NHS 111 and was sent to an emergency dentist, but they only gave him a temporary filling (twice). They were told they had to register with a dentist to have the tooth treated further. They were still suffering from the temporarily filled tooth.
Ms Spenceley said: ‘It’s a countywide problem, and local Healthwatch across England has experienced similar issues. In North Northamptonshire, we especially heard from residents of Kettering and Corby – 11 and 8 respectively, between January and April 2021.
“Most people contacted us because they had difficulty finding an NHS dentist, including several who were told their dentist in Kettering was no longer providing NHS treatment. Others found that their teeth were getting worse and that they were only able to get them repaired temporarily – unless they paid for private treatment.
NHS Digital figures show 248,027 people aged 18 and over were seen by a dentist or orthodontist in Northamptonshire in the two years leading up to the end of December 2020 – just 43% of the region’s adult population.
In Northamptonshire, 49,487 young people were seen in 2020 – up from 94,995 the year before – meaning only 29% of children went to the dentist last year.
And the situation worsened as one of Kettering’s main practices told child NHS patients to sign up for a private care payment plan or to move surgeries altogether.
Anterior Dental Care in Northampton Road, Kettering, has informed parents and caregivers that their free dental care is coming to an end.
A father of a 15-year-old patient enrolled for surgery has been given an ultimatum to go private or find an NHS dentist elsewhere. He said: “I find it appalling that after being in the same practice for almost 30 years and being a private patient under the Denplan regime, the free treatment for my daughter was taken away, leaving us to find another practice. elsewhere or register to pay for dental insurance.
“She doesn’t want to see another dentist. She likes him and trusts him implicitly. She’s been to the office twice a year since before she even has any teeth. It’s about the continuity of care and the principle of free treatment on the NHS to which all children are entitled. Withdrawing from NHS care seems remarkably short-sighted. It is the poorest people who will suffer. Those on low incomes who cannot. not afford to travel, shop or just pay for an appointment.It is the duty of our children oral health that will suffer.
“I will pay but I am saddened the government allowed this to happen to the NHS.”
Another patient from the same practice also encountered difficulties during the Covid containment,
She said: “Having been a loyal and regular patient at Anterior Dental Care for the past 31 years, I have been appalled by my treatment for the past 16 months.
“I had an NHS appointment after the first lockdown started. My first appointment was three days after the first lockdown and naturally it got canceled, and I’ve received several new appointments over the years. months, but those have also been canceled. I ‘I haven’t been seen since despite problems with loose gums and teeth, I received a letter last August / September to say that if I wanted to continue with my dentist, in whom I have absolute confidence, then I should register as a private patient.
“It had no deadline. When I called a few weeks later to fix the problem, I was told it was too late, that I should become a private patient and that I should complain to the office. I was reassured, however, that I would certainly still have an NHS dentist.
“Since then I have received a letter saying that ‘it does not fit their philosophy of having NHS patients longer’ which is amazing. However, I am more than welcome to keep their books if I want to become a private patient. I am so disappointed with this excellent practice. There is no sense of moral obligation. What a sad reflection on society that the NHS no longer has a place or is no longer ethical Of our society. ”
A spokesperson for the British Dental Association said: “It is true that children in full-time school are entitled to free dental care from the NHS if they find a dental office capable of seeing them, and of course one with a NHS contract.
“I am not in a position to comment on specific practices, but I am aware that many NHS dental offices are struggling to meet their goals, and some have found them unusable as they have surrendered their contracts.
“Practice owners, whether or not they provide NHS services, should invest their own funds – not taxpayers – in setting up a practice, to pay for staff, lab costs, etc. , so their firms have to be viable or they will go bankrupt.
“Practices can only provide NHS services if they are mandated by NHS England / their local team. The contract effectively limits the number of patients they can see, if they see more than they are under contract they will not be paid, if they underperform they face heavy financial penalties.
“One of the anomalies of the much-criticized dental contract in England is that if a dentist does a filling or 10 on the same patient, during the same treatment, they will be paid in the same way, although the latter obviously takes a lot more. of time.
‘A 2008 dental health select committee investigation found the NHS dental contract to be unsuitable, and patient group Healthwatch has repeatedly expressed concerns about people struggling to access care dental clinics from the NHS.
From January to March 2021, Healthwatch Northamptonshire saw a 50% increase in negative comments and requests for help finding a dentist compared to the previous three months (October to December 2020). Compared to the same time the year before (January to March 2020), there were nine times more people contacting Healthwatch Northamptonshire about their difficulty accessing NHS dental care – a jump from three to 27 people.
Kettering MP Philip Hollobone said: “I am very keen to see the NHS expanded dental offer in the constituency of Kettering and as a priority I will be happy to highlight local concerns regarding this important issue for the government.
“I urge Anterior Dental Care to write to me as soon as possible with the specific details of the difficulties they face in relation to NHS contracts and I will ensure that these concerns land on the office of the Minister of Dental Health. for urgent attention and response. “
Ms Spenceley added: ‘We will continue to share the concerns of local residents with NHS England.
“Anyone with an urgent need for dental treatment can call NHS 111 – or use the 111.nhs.uk online service – or call any local NHS dentist for advice, whether or not they attend this cabinet regularly.
“The dentist will perform the triage over the phone and provide the appropriate support. You can receive NHS dental treatment at any NHS dental office and do not need to be registered.