Cornwall patients waiting a year-and-a-half for an NHS dental appointment
NHS dental patients in Cornwall are waiting on average 529 days for an appointment, NHS England figures show.
Health officials claim the number of procedures commissioned would be enough to tackle the waiting list ‘three times over’.
However, Cornwall Live reports that continued recruitment issues in the area mean practices are unable to fulfil their contracts.
‘For planning purposes, we allow for three UDAs per patient per annum,’ NHS England said in a report to councillors.
‘If all contracted activity had been carried out it is estimated that 68,556 additional patients would have been able to access an NHS dentist in Cornwall.
‘This is three times as many people as are currently on the waiting list in Cornwall for NHS dentistry.’
A dedicated helpline has now been created for residents in Cornwall to find an NHS dentist or urgent treatment.
Between April 2018 and March 2019, the helpline received 24,000 calls, according to Cornwall Live.
NHS England estimates there is a shortfall in Cornwall of 30 full-time dentists.
‘Practices are encouraged to point prospective new patients towards the helpline so they can be added to a central waiting list rather than being taken on directly,’ NHS England says.
‘As a result people are sometimes under the impression that no practices are taking on new NHS patients.
‘This is not correct.
‘Instead patients are allocated in batches as capacity becomes available.
‘Those who have waited longest get priority.
‘People who are prepared to travel further are likely to be found a place sooner than those who are not.’
The dental crisis was highlighted earlier this year when Cornwall Council claimed it had 48,000 patients on the waiting list.
At the time, Devon and Cornwall patients were waiting an average of 477 days to see a dentist.
‘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.’