Cornwall demanding action with 50,000 patients on waiting list for an NHS dentist

cornwallCornwall Council is calling for action as 48,000 patients wait for an NHS dental appointment.

Devon and Cornwall patients are waiting an average of 477 days to see a dentist.

Numbers have jumped recently, from 18,508 on waiting lists in January 2016, with waiting times of 357 days.

‘This is an issue that I have been aware of for a long time,’ Councillor Loic Rich told Cornwall Live.

‘It has been in the news recently with reports that people in Bodmin have been facing a round trip to Redruth to see an NHS dentist.

‘We had a report from NHS England, which set out their plan for Cornwall.

‘It was looking at dentistry but wasn’t really addressing the scale of the problem.

‘It is important to do things outside the NHS to promote oral health.

‘But an NHS dentist is the best person to get advice on how to look after your teeth.

‘In local schools children are now brushing their teeth in the classroom, which is great.

‘But they need to be able to see a dentist as well.’

Recruitment problems

The British Dental Association (BDA) has welcomed the vote for action, pointing to a growing recruitment crisis.

The association claims 75% of NHS practice owners in England are struggling to fill vacancies in their practices.

A recruitment agency in the area has been unable to fill a single vacancy in Cornwall over the last year, despite offering ‘golden handshakes’.

‘Councillors in Cornwall are showing the kind of leadership we really need to see from Westminster,’ BDA’s chair of General Dental Practice, Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, said.

‘The crisis in NHS dentistry is now hitting communities from Cornwall to Cumbria.

‘Underfunding and a failed contract have left dental practices without dentists, and our patients are seeing the result.

‘The official line is recruitment problems are just anecdotal.

‘Even though the government’s own surveys show over a million new patients tried and failed to access care last year.

‘Aren’t a million anecdotes enough to make ministers wake up to this problem?’

Mass exodus

NHS dentistry is facing a potential mass exodus, with 86% of dentists looking to leave in the next five years.

That’s according to Practice Plan’s 2018 NHS Confidence Monitor report, which asked 495 dentists about their levels of happiness within NHS dentistry.

‘The UDA contract is bad for patients and bad for dentistry,’ Joe Hendron, practising dentist, said of the figures.

‘The capped budget for dentistry restricts career progression and makes it more difficult for associates to become practice owners.

‘As does the recent increase in control of practices by corporate businesses.

‘This is challenging the retention of dentists in the profession.

‘Currently the NHS contract reform project does not provide a sound business model.

‘Much more thought needs to be given if it is to be successful.’

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Comments (1)

Direct access and more therapists are required to solve the staffing crisis in dentistry

At the end of last week, the Home Office announced that doctors and nurses are to be excluded from the cap on skilled worker visas.

There will therefore be no restriction on the numbers of doctors and nurses who can be employed through the so-called tier two visa route – giving the NHS the ability to recruit more international doctors and nurses from outside the EU.

In case you were wondering whether ‘doctors’ might include dentists, it does not.

The Home Office statement did say though that the move ‘will also free up hundreds of additional places a month within the cap for other highly skilled occupations, such as engineers, IT professionals and teachers.

But again, no mention of dentists.

Recruitment issues
Also included are ‘leading fashion designers’ and applicants from the TV and film industry.

Good for doctors and nurses, who have great problems recruiting staff for the NHS, but equally so have dentists, especially now that recruitment from the EU has virtually dried up.

One thing we have to consider – all EU dentists are not affected by tier two visa applications, but they are not coming, partly because the pound sterling is down so the ability to send remittance home is reduced.

There is also the fact EU dentists genuinely came to the UK to make a home with their families, they are not going to come to the UK if they do not feel welcome and if there is no long-term future for them.

In addition, dentists from the Commonwealth, for example India, South Africa and Australia lost their dental qualifications having reciprocal status in 1997, so even if dentists from these countries where excluded from tier two visas like doctors and nurses, they still could not work in the UK.

Some say the solution lies with therapists, but according to the Government’s own Strategic Workforce Planning Group, to produce enough dental therapists to plug the gap would take 10 years.

In addition, without direct access, which does not exist in NHS dentistry, but does in private dentistry, dental therapists are not really a solution for the lack of an NHS dentistry workforce, which impacts on patient access.

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