Looking for an NHS dentist? Type that into Google and this will be at the top of your search results.
Most people looking for an NHS dentist will tell you it’s not ‘simple’. In most areas in East Anglia it’s quite literally impossible to find a dentist taking on new NHS adult patients. Anyone who’s tried will have wasted hours calling around to surgeries without success.
In recent weeks, anecdotes of this shortfall has been backed up by hard data. This week there was wide-scale coverage of the research undertaken by the BBC showing the overwhelming majority of dental practices surveyed were not taking on new NHS patients. Before that, the British Dental Association had released data confirming this trend.
NHS dentist shortage in East Anglia
In the East of England region, of the 541 dental practices the BBC surveyed, 500 are not taking on new NHS patients. That represents a 93.1% refusal rate.
This is how those numbers break down by local authority.
Of the 45 dental practices in Cambridgeshire, 66 practices in Norfolk and 70 in Suffolk, none were taking on new NHS dental patients. A 100% refusal rate. This was mirrored in the Unitary Authorities of Luton and Southend on Sea, both with 17 practices.
Elsewhere, the picture wasn’t quite so stark, but still eye-opening.
- Essex: 133 practices were surveyed with 92% not taking on NHS patients
- Central Bedfordshire has 27 practices and an 89% refusal rate
- Bedford has 19 practices and an 84% refusal rate
- Hertfordshire has 130 practices surveyed and an 84% refusal rate
- The Unitary Authority of Thurrock has 17 practices with an 82% refusal rate.
‘NHS dentistry could become extinct’
Responding to the BBC research, Mark Jones said: “People will have woken up to this news in agony, having suffered another night of toothache wondering how on earth they are going get seen by an NHS dentist.
“None of the figures revealed today will come as any surprise to members of the public who have already tried in vain to get treated by an NHS dentist.” He continued, “Ironically, it’s been revenue from the private work dental practices undertake that has been propping up the NHS work. With spiralling costs of treatment, this has fast become unsustainable. For years and years, we’ve been drawing from the well of goodwill offered by dedicated dental professionals who want to provide NHS treatments in the communities they serve.”
He added “What this survey confirms once and for all is that the well of goodwill is now dry.
“And why is this? It’s because successive governments have prevaricated over reforming the NHS contract that was declared unfit for purpose by the House of Commons Health Committee back in 2008. Members of the public are fed up and angry – and they have every right to be. They’ve been writing to their MPs, the local press, calling into radio stations up and down the country, but it seems no one in government is listening.”
The campaign’s call-out has been joined in recent months by Eddie Crouch the chair of the British Dental Association (BDA) who said: “NHS dentistry is on the brink. Underfunded and overstretched, the service is now haemorrhaging talent, while families are unable to secure the care they desperately need. This is a crisis made in Westminster. Until ministers deliver real reform and fair funding, we will not see progress.”
The original Toothless in Suffolk campaign has a petition here.
The BBC article has an interactive map which can be accessed via this link.