Dental crisis as hundreds of children have teeth out in Shropshire hospitals

Hundreds of Shropshire children - some aged under five - are having their teeth extracted in hospital because of a crisis in NHS dentistry, a councillor claims.

Government figures show that in the last year some 315 young people aged 0 to 19 in Shropshire had teeth extracted in hospital - including 80 under fives.

The British Dental Association says that there is an accelerating exodus of NHS dentists across Shropshire where the profession saw 40 stop providing services in 2021-22.

Telford & Wrekin councillor Richard Overton said: “Backlog Britain is holding Telford & Wrekin back and our children are paying the prices.

"From GPs and A&E, to courts, passports and driving licences, our country is stuck in a queue. And now we know that children in Telford & Wrekin are ending up in hospital because they can’t get the dental treatment they need.

“We need a government that will prioritise the health and wellbeing of children and families in Telford & Wrekin, instead we have a Conservative Government too mired in scandal and fighting amongst themselves to act.”

Government figures for the number of "finished consultant episodes" for children and adolescents aged 0-19 in England for hospital tooth extractions during 2020-21 show figures broken down to a Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin Council level.

In Telford & Wrekin the numbers were; children aged 0-5 - 40; children aged six-10 - 80; children aged 11-14 - 20; teenagers aged 15-19 - 20.

In Shropshire; children aged 0-5: 40; children aged six-10 - 60; children aged 11-14 - 20; teenagers aged 15-19 - 30. The data showed a total figure five higher than that, of 155 for 0-19 year olds.

The British Dental Association estimates that more than 400,000 appointments have been lost across Shropshire since lockdown, including more than 100,000 for children. Across England that figure is more than 43 million appointments, says the BDA.

British Dental Association chairman Eddie Crouch said: "People are now waiting years for treatment as NHS dentistry faces an historic crisis. It means routine problems are not being captured early on the high street and are becoming urgent ones, meaning more pain for patients and greater costs for our NHS.

"A failed NHS dental contract, in place since 2006, is fuelling this crisis, with no plan in place for real reform. The system funds dentistry for barely half the population and puts government targets ahead of patient care."

Mr Crouch said the profession faces a "perfect storm."

"Practices experienced a massive reduction in capacity as they worked through the pandemic, and now face an unprecedented backlog and full-on exodus of dentists from the NHS," he said.

"Without real and urgent change there is no guarantee that NHS dentistry will survive the pandemic.

"Since lockdown England's lost more than a years' worth of dentistry, but not a penny of the government's multi-billion-pound NHS catch-up programme has been pledged to correct a decade of savage cuts."

He added that change has been needed for a "generation" but "dentists today can't see a light at the end of tunnel".

"Every day dentists are walking away, fed up with chasing targets, and working to a perverse system that pays them the same for one filling as ten, whether the work takes 15 minutes or four hours," he said.

"The Government has pledged reform but hasn't delivered. This isn't a partisan issue, and MPs of all parties are calling on ministers to act, and act now.

"Between 2020 and 2021 Shropshire saw the number of NHS dentists fall by 13 per cent, and every vacancy translates into thousands of patients unable to access care.

"That exodus is accelerating, and without real change NHS dentistry across this country faces a slow death."

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