Thousands in west Essex failing to access NHS dentist

PUBLISHED: 14:34 19 February 2019

Some 60,000 people in the East of England can't access an NHS dentist.

Some 60,000 people in the East of England can't access an NHS dentist.

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One in five new patients in the East of England are unable to access NHS dentistry, according to the British Dental Association (BDA).

Analysis of Government data has revealed more than 60,000 new patients in the East of England have tried and failed to secure access to routine NHS dental services and a new survey of dentists by the organisation points to staffing problems as one of the main causes.

The data showed more than a million people were missing out across England and latest surveys showed nearly three in five dentists plan on quitting the NHS in the next five years.

In west Essex, more than 2,000 new patients were unable to secure dentist appointments, amounting to 11 per cent of new patients.

Dentist leaders have lambasted what they called “Government unwillingness to heed warnings” over the recruitment and retention crisis in the service. Despite pledges to put prevention and primary care at the heart of the NHS 10-year plan, the BDA says no commitments have been made to guarantee the future sustainability of high street dentistry.

The BDA is seeking assurances that the Government will provide funding for a reformed system to guarantee access. Government spending per head has fallen by £4.95, from £40.95 to £36, in the last five years, while dentists have experienced a 35 per cent collapse in real income over last decade, a fall without precedent in the public sector.

The association’s vice chairman, Eddie Crouch said: “High street NHS dentistry is on the brink, and it’s the patients who need us most who risk losing out.

“Across the East of England practices are now unable to fill vacancies, as a system of unforgiving targets pushes talented colleagues out. The result is tens of thousands of irregular attenders – many with poor oral health – are falling through the cracks.

“These aren’t just patients seeking a regular check-up. They are often people in pain, left without the care they need.

“Dentists were looking for a lifeline in the recent 10-year plan, but were offered little more than a footnote. The practitioners who have done most to support the NHS - and the patients who need them - are now paying the price for that indifference.”

An NHS England spokesman said: “More than nine out of 10 people needing a dental appointment get one, with a clear majority saying they are happy with their care.”

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