‘Two year wait’ for NHS appointment forces patients to opt for DIY dentistry

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More than seven in 10 are still struggling to access dentistry as patients continue to carry out DIY dentistry, a watchdog has revealed.

Additionally, patients are being told to carry out DIY dentistry due to this lack of availability.

In the latest findings published by Healthwatch England, it concluded that access issues still plagued the country at the end of 2020.

Analysing concerns voiced by the public between October and December 2020, the report shows:

  • Some people who looked for dental treatment were told they would have to wait. The times cited were anywhere between two months and two years for an appointment
  • Others called more than 40 dental practices in a bid to find an NHS dentist
  • Patients resorted to pulling out their own teeth as a result of access troubles.

Quick fix DIY dentistry

The watchdog also reports that dentists are advising people to buy dental repair kits to treat themselves.

Last December, Healthwatch released a report that showed calls and complaints about dentistry increased by 450% over the summer. 

And in one case of DIY dentistry, a patient was recommended to use a nail file to manage the sharp edge of a broken tooth.

In addition, patients are being told they can be treated privately if there are no NHS appointments available.

Nearly three in five (58%) expressed negative views about dentistry, compared to 51% in the preceding three months.

However, there was an increase in the level of positive feedback regarding dentistry. For example, more than one in 10 (12%) said something positive. This compared to one in 25 (4%) between July and September 2020.

Prioritise and improve

Sir Robert Francis QC is the chair of Healthwatch England. He said the pandemic ‘exacerbated the human impact’ of long-standing structural issues within NHS dentistry.

‘Our findings show that access to dental care is currently neither equal nor inclusive, leading to traumatic experiences for many people,’ he said.

‘This provides yet more evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the human impact of years of structural issues in NHS dentistry and is now pushing it to crisis point. We are hugely concerned that this will have detrimental effects to the nation’s health for years to come.

‘Although we have to grapple with the pandemic, all efforts should be made to treat those in need of urgent care. As well as provide more accurate and up-to-date information to help people find and access NHS dental care.

‘In the longer term, the Department of Health and Social Care must prioritise the importance of oral health. And commit to improving access to dentistry for everyone who needs it.’


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