New report says shortage of NHS dentists means thousands of people are being denied urgent treatment, including children

Healthwatch wants more dental appointments to be available in Cambridgeshire

Healthwatch wants more dental appointments to be available in Cambridgeshire - Credit: Archant

A new report from Healthwatch Cambridgeshire says thousands of local people are being denied dental treatment due to the shortage of NHS dentists.

According to the Finding an NHS Dentist report, people are struggling to obtain NHS appointments, with high street dentists turning to Dental Access Centres for help.

But these centres are also extremely busy and all regularly turn away patients in need of urgent care.

The report shows that more than 14,000 patients were turned away, between April 2017 and March 2018, with the highest numbers in Wisbech and Peterborough. The figure for Huntingdon was 2,699.

Healthwatch spoke to people who told them it was difficult to secure both routine and emergency appointments.

Hard to get an appointment

The Dental Access Centre service was only set up to provide urgent and out-of-hours’ dental care, such as pain relief or a temporary filling. However, nearly four out of every five patients that Healthwatch spoke to, said they were using the service “repeatedly”.

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Three in every five people said they were not currently under the care of a high street NHS dentist.

There were also reports of people being removed from their NHS dentist’s list and greater numbers of children having decaying teeth removed.

Dental staff told Healthwatch they are worried about the increasing number of children with tooth decay that they are seeing, which they felt was caused by a lack of access to routine dental care and a poor understanding of how to look after teeth.

Healthwatch found that children do not have any priority in the system, unless they have additional needs and are referred by another healthcare professional.

In 2017/18 there were 657 tooth extractions for children under general anaesthesia in Peterborough alone, with a further 116 extractions using nitrous oxide. The children who lost their teeth were mostly aged between three and 12 years.

Healthwatch has made the following recommendations:

As part of our Finding an NHS Dentist in Peterborough and Wisbech report, we have made recommendations to the organisations responsible for making decisions about dental services.

• We have asked NHS England to make sure that there are enough high street, urgent and out of hours’ dental services to meet the local populations needs. It is their job to plan and pay for (commission) these dental services for people in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

• We have asked the local public health teams and Public Health England to develop an oral health campaign targeting children and families.

• We have asked Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust who run the Dental Access Centres to make sure the information they are providing for people using their service is accessible.

Have you got an NHS dental care story to share?

Contact Healthwatch and let them know about your experience.

•Call 0330 355 1285

•Text 0752 0635 176