skip to Main Content

Nine in 10 UK dental practices are not accepting new adult patients for NHS treatment

In large swaths of the UK, it is now impossible to find a dental practice willing to register new patients on National Health Service (NHS) lists. Millions of people no longer have access to routine inspections, extractions or treatment for tooth and gum disease.

A BBC survey of 7,000 NHS dental practices found nine in ten were not accepting new adult patients for any treatment paid for by the health service, with adult patients unable to enroll in a third party of the 200 local authorities in the UK.

A dental center in Croydon, London [Photo by Kake/Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 4.0]

The crisis is particularly acute in working-class neighborhoods. In Yorkshire and the Humber, the North West and South West of England, 98% of practices are not accepting new adult patients.

Eight surgeries out of 10 do not accept children and one local authority in ten does not have a surgeries for children under 16.

The BBC found that most practices didn’t even have waiting lists that potential patients could sign up for. Of those who did, the length of the lists to some meant it could take years to access treatment.

In the aftermath of the BBC report, local media was full of stories of people unable to access a dentist in their area.

The Sheffield Star reported that patients had to travel miles to see a dentist. According Nottinghamshire Live, no dentists in Nottingham were accepting new NHS patients, with 96% of surgeries in the county closed to new patients. A journalist from Echo of Liverpool ‘spent hours trying to get an appointment with the NHS dentist’ in the city, without success after ringing 50 practices. The Manchester Evening News reported that nine out of 10 practices in the city were not accepting new adult patients.

British Dental Association (BDA) spokesman Phil Gowers, who also chairs the local Hampshire and Isle of Wight dental committee, told the Time, “In Hampshire, four surgeries have stopped working with the NHS in the past three months. And it will continue more and more. »

The situation is not much better in Wales and Scotland, which have delegated responsibility for health matters. Wales is ruled by a Labor administration and Scotland by the Scottish National Party. For instance, WalesOnline found that only three out of 43 practices in Cardiff were taking NHS patients. According to Daily recordingolder people in Scotland face particular difficulties, with four in five practices turning away new adult patients.

People unable to access dental care resort to desperate measures. The Independent reported that a mother had her teeth pulled three times after she was unable to find treatment for a tooth infection at a dentist less than 70 miles from her home. A Blackpool woman has told the BBC she was forced to make her own dentures after failing to find a dentist in her home town.

Regular dental inspections and treatments are not only important for maintaining oral health, they can also provide an early warning of more serious medical conditions such as cancer. Jane Wilcock, faculty chair at the Royal College of General Practitioners North-West, told the Daily Mail“Patients are often not aware of a problem in the mouth until a dental hygienist or dentist notices something suspicious, such as a red or white patch inside the cheek or on the gums. .”

“The problem is that a lot of people just can’t see an NHS dentist at the moment. With fewer exams, inevitably cases of oral cancer will go undiagnosed,” she warned.

Professor Patricia Price, chair of Radiotherapy UK and co-founder of the #CatchUpWithCancer campaign, told the newspaper: “With oral cancer, speed of diagnosis and treatment is extremely important. If opportunities to catch it early are missed, more oral cancer patients will die unnecessarily.

In a press release, Shawn Charlwood, chairman of the British Dental Association’s (BDA) General Dental Practice Committee, said NHS dentistry was “at a tipping point, with millions of people unable to get the care they need and more and more dentists leaving every day”. It was the result of “years of chronic neglect, accelerated by the pressures of the pandemic.”

“Nothing we have heard from the government to date gives us any certainty that this service has a future. Without real reform and fair funding, NHS dentistry will die and our patients will pay the price.

The BDA’s press release points to a decade of savage cuts, estimating that an additional £880m a year would be needed to restore funding to 2010 levels. goals before patient care” under a funding scheme that barely provides resources for half the population.

After years of austerity and budget cuts, the coronavirus pandemic has seriously worsened the situation for patients and dentists.

Surrey dentist Nighat Rasool told the Time the pandemic had resulted in a massive backlog. “In my NHS list, I’m probably full for about two months, so I don’t have the ability to see new patients. If my own patients wait two months, that’s not fair. And that’s the situation. She knew many dentists who had left the profession: “It’s not easy to wear all the PPE and see patients face to face during very high-risk procedures.

This has led to an increase in the workload of dentists who stay and care for NHS patients, with the take-home pay of associates in dental practices having fallen by 40% in the last 10 years due to government cuts.

NHS dental care is only free for people aged under 18 (or 19 if studying full-time), pregnant women or those who have had a baby in the last year, and those who receive certain means-tested benefits. For everyone else, treatment is subsidized and usually costs around £24 for emergency pain relief and temporary fillings, routine inspections and cleaning if clinically necessary. Those who need fillings, root canal work or extractions pay £65 and £283 for crowns, dentures, bridges and other lab work.

Performing such procedures privately can cost between £85 (scaling and polishing), £175 (filling), £970 (root canal), £1,180 (crowns), £2,520 (dentures/bridges). Such burdens are far beyond the reach of millions of people on minimum wage. Even families whose people work in higher-paying jobs would struggle to afford such costs with incomes greatly reduced by inflation.

Universal access to a dentist, like to a doctor, is a social right. Access to the best dental care available must be fought as part of the fight to defend the NHS against privatization and dissolution. Billions of pounds are to be made available for NHS dentistry, including for the training of thousands more dentists in every community. All of society’s resources must be placed in the hands of the working class and used for the benefit of all – not for the enrichment of the few – including a massive expansion of NHS funding.

Back To Top