The scale of need for NHS dentistry in Shropshire

NHS bosses say they are working to secure a new NHS dental practice in Oswestry and will review access in other areas of the county, after the county's Healthwatch group heard that patients could not access services.

In response to a survey carried out by the health watchdog, which found 93 per cent of those taking part struggled to find an NHS dentist, NHS England and NHS Improvement Midlands admitted there were problems.

The survey found that some dentists were contacting patients to say they would not longer be offering NHS dentistry. Others were taking patients off their NHS list if they had not made an appointment for two years.

A spokesman for NHS England, which commissions dental services, said: "Due to the existing limitations around Covid-19, it may however be difficult at present to find a dentist who is taking on new NHS patients. However, patients should not be pressured into private care where they wish to have treatment on the NHS and it should not be the case that they are unable to to get an urgent NHS appointment where a practice has capacity to offer routine private check-ups.

"Patients that have an urgent dental need and have not been able to access an NHS dentist should contact NHS 111 for advice and information on services to contact."

It is also to contact all Shropshire dental practices to request that they update their acceptance status on a regular basis to assist patients.

People who responded to the Shropshire Healthwatch survey included a retired dentist.

"As a recently retired dentist with 23 years working in the NHS in a dental access centre within Herefordshire, I can tell you that access to NHS dentistry in south Shropshire has been difficult for many years," they said.

"This has now been exacerbated by the pandemic which has been extremely stressful for members of the profession and their full capacity is unlikely to recover for some years, if at all, in my opinion. Access has been particularly difficult for people with a disability or elderly frail who often have to travel long distances to be treated within the community services."

Parents took part saying they should not have to pay for dental treatment for their children.

One said their son lost his two front teeth in an accident aged one.

"We were registered in Oswestry until our dentist closed down. We have tried for years to get in with another dentist. He has a plate with two teeth on it which has broken twice and is broken again. We have spent days trying to get seen by a dentist but no one will help. We have had to pay to have it repaired twice already."

Another who completed the survey can't find an NHS dentist despite being told they needed three-monthly check ups having suffered from tonsil cancer.

"Dental hygiene and checks are obviously very important for me but £40 every three months is very difficult."

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