A leading dental chain claims it has room to treat NHS patients, despite the current controversy raging over long waiting lists.
Oasis Dental Care says 7,095 NHS appointment slots went spare across its practices last month and has about 7,500 spare NHS places this month (October).
Oasis has 150 dental practices throughout England and Wales. About 40% of its work is for NHS patients and the remaining 60% is for private patients.
Figures released by the NHS Information Centre in August suggest that one million fewer people have been seen an NHS dentists since the April 2006 contract.
The data also shows that in England, 30.8% of children and 51.1% of adults have not seen an NHS dentist in the last two years.
However, Oasis says it has NHS places to offer and is currently running an ad campaign to fill NHS appointments in areas where they have spare capacity.
And as part of this campaign, there will be queues of people (parodying the belief that there are queues to see NHS dentists) at cash machines and post offices all wearing T-shirts bearing the slogan ‘To see an NHS dentists, call Oasis’.
Justin Ash, chief executive of Oasis, says: ‘We’ve invested heavily in new NHS capacity, including opening 24 new HNS practices in the last two years, but it seems that people are assuming there is no NHS capacity locally and so don’t even try to search it out. The spare capacity is not a blip, it’s part of a consistent pattern.
‘Many people believe they have to be on a dentist’s list in order to get NHS treatment but there is no such things as an NHS list these days, although the perception persists. That may partly explain why fewer people are using the NHS.’
He maintains that – given the link between dental health and overall health – ‘there is an urgent need to ensure people who need NHS treatment are made aware of the capacity that exists locally’.