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Garston Lodge dental patients worried about end of NHS treatment

Dental patients have ‘no choice’ but to pay for private treatment as their practice will stop seeing NHS patients.

In October Garston Lodge Dental Practice sent a letter to patients saying it was joining a growing number of dental practices moving away from the NHS – due to a “chronic lack of investment”.

The practice will no longer see patients under the NHS from December 31 and all exams after November 21 have been cancelled.

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Patients said they struggled to find other dentists in Watford who could take them.

Someone who posted to online neighborhood group Nextdoor said they called eight practices and were told none were taking NHS patients, with one having a waiting list of 700 people.

A Garston Lodge patient who spoke to us did not want to be named as he thought he would likely have to return to practice.

They said, “I feel like I have to stay with them, I’m between a rock and a hard place. I can’t find any other NHS dentist.

“I understand the situation they find themselves in, but I feel like I have no other choice.

“Also, I don’t drive, so I can’t look all over Watford for a practice that will take me, my SEN (special educational needs) children and my adult SEN child.

“I know there are a lot of other people who are really upset and struggling, they can’t afford to go private.

“It’s not fair on this whole area because we’re a poor area.”

Patients were invited to stay via patient membership, paying between £12.99 and £21.99 per month for a discount on treatments and two to four annual visits, with a one-time membership fee of 9, £50.

In the letter, the practice said that “due to a chronic lack of investment in NHS dentistry” it could no longer provide the level of care expected by patients and remain a viable business.

The British Dental Association said 45% of dentists in England have reduced their commitment to the NHS since the start of the pandemic, with thousands leaving the NHS altogether due to underfunding and recruitment difficulties.

The association added that it believed MP Maria Caulfield was right when she said: ‘There is no shortage of dentists, but of dentists supporting the work of the NHS.

An NHS spokesperson in the east of England said: “We are working closely with dental providers to improve access to services in the region, including inviting NHS contract holders to undertake additional activities.

Garston Lodge Dental Practice has been approached for comment.

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