According to a damn new state of dentistry report, people are being told to wait for dentist appointments until 2024 while others will be removed from their practice lists for not making appointments earlier.
Dental offices have reported that “thousands” of people are on their waiting lists while patients after numerous dental offices have no access to care, a watchdog warned.
Delays have made painful symptoms worsen and, in one case, even resulted in a patient requiring hospital treatment after an overdose of pain medication.
However, Healthwatch England said some people are being offered quick private care as an alternative in the same dental office. Some patients said they felt “pressured” to pay for private care.
Some practices appeared to “prioritize” private care, he added.
Healthwatch England’s most recent report on the state of dentistry in the UK, made available to the PA News Agency, highlights a number of issues related to affordability and access, including:
– People who were “removed” from the exercise list because they had not made an appointment earlier.
– Repeated canceled appointments – even in the middle of the treatment.
– Dentists have reported that they have “thousands” of people on their waiting lists. Some patients claim they couldn’t even get on a waiting list.
– Dentists close or go “completely private”.
– Patients are asked to wait up to three years for appointments – or six weeks for emergency care.
– Some who called NHS 111 for emergency dental care were instructed to “use salt water” and keep calling the practice until they could find help.
– Other patients have been told to use DIY filling kits while waiting for an appointment.
– People who are increasingly prescribed antibiotics with no prospect of a follow-up appointment to actually treat the problem.
“People felt pressured to go private as dentists said they couldn’t offer NHS treatments but could if people were willing to pay private fees,” the Healthwatch report said.
It adds, “People couldn’t make an appointment with their regular dentist because they were removed from the practice list because they didn’t make an appointment earlier.
“They only became aware of this when they tried to book an appointment as they had never received a notification about it. Some couldn’t find another practice to accept new NHS patients, so they paid privately to see a dentist. “
Brighton retiree Gwen Leeming suffered from infections in two of her molars for two years.
However, when she tried to get help from her NHS dentist, she was told that her practice was only offering private appointments.
It took her six months to get dental care but had to leave an hour for her appointment after unable to get help from an NHS dentist in Brighton.
“I am 72 years old and have worked in social security for over 50 years, so I can no longer take out health insurance,” said the former administrator of a research institute.
“Since I live on a limited income, which is supplemented by housing benefit, I cannot afford any additional costs such as private dental care.
“I am one of the many victims of our broken dental care system. It fails particularly with older patients who suffered (and are still suffering) from the effects of school dentists in the 1960s.”
Healthwatch England conducted a review of the experiences of 1,375 people shared with its local teams and found that some people had been asked to wait three years for an NHS dentist appointment but were told that private care was available could be available within a week.
The watchdog warned that three-fifths (61%) of people think treatment is too “expensive” even when healthcare professionals have access to dental care.
While some people get access to free dental care – including children, pregnant women, and those on income support – many pay between £ 23.80 for routine treatments to £ 282.80 for more complex treatments.
Healthwatch England said some people avoid treatment because they cannot afford the cost.
It is said that there is a “twin crisis” of access and affordability.
Data from the organization suggests that 80% of those who contacted the organization in the first three months of the year had difficulty accessing timely care.
The number of complaints about dentistry increased by 22% in the first three months of 2021 compared to the previous three months.
A survey of 2,000 people who had dental care experience in England was also carried out.
A quarter (27%) said they either have difficulty paying for dental treatment or avoid it because they cannot afford it.
And 30% said they felt pressured to pay private fees to get the dental care they needed.
Almost a quarter (23%) said they will only visit the dentist if they need treatment, although guidelines recommend people get regular dental exams.
Low-income people, people of the northeast and people from ethnic minorities are hardest hit, Healthwatch added.
Healthwatch England has urged the government to accelerate NHS dentistry reforms to avoid harm to health.
Imelda Redmond, National Director of Healthwatch England, told PA: “The double crisis of access and affordability in NHS dentistry means that many people do not have access to timely care – and the poorest are hardest hit.
“These human stories show that oral health is a problem of social justice and justice.
“Dentist contract reform must be urgent for this government.
“New regulations should include that access to NHS dental services is equal and affordable for all, regardless of where people live, their income and ethnicity.
“If we don’t act now, thousands of people will be harmed in the long term, which puts even more pressure on the already overloaded health system.”
Shawn Charlwood, chairman of the British Dental Association’s General Dental Practice Committee, said, “For too long, major NHS dentistry reform has been in the making.
“Covid has marginalized a system that is already in crisis and millions are left with no options.
“Patients need to know that by then next year ministers will have turned a decade of failed contracts and underfunding on their heads.”
A spokesman for the Ministry of Health and Welfare said: “We are committed to helping the dental sector during this unprecedented pandemic so that everyone across the country has access to affordable, high quality dental care.
“Since last June, all dental practices have been able to offer all of their personal care. Over 600 practices offer additional support for urgent dental treatment.
“We continue to support the most vulnerable by providing exemptions from dentist fees for specific groups. Nearly half of all dental care, over 17 million, was free in 2019-20.”