‘It’s virtually impossible to register with an NHS dentist’ - people struggling to pay for dental care
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A recent poll by a health and social care champion has revealed that individuals are struggling to pay for dental care due to a lack of NHS appointments.
The poll of 2,026 adults by Healthwatch England further revealed that more than half of people in the East of England (54%) felt NHS charges were unfair.
A warning from Healthwatch in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has now been shared regarding the fact that health inequalities seem to be widening.
In the poll, people’s experiences of NHS dentistry, including costs associated with dental care were looked at.
Answers showed that nearly half of those who took part (48%) said they found it difficult to book an NHS dental appointment.
21 per cent said they had to pay privately to receive all the treatment they required, and nine per cent reported that their NHS dentist charged more for treatments than the prices advertised.
One Cambridgeshire patient said: “It’s virtually impossible to register with an NHS dentist; it’s almost impossible to get an appointment at the emergency dentist as well.”
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Another said: “We have been on the waiting list of a dentist in Littleport for two years and they’ve recently informed us it is unlikely that we will ever become one of their patients.”
Between October 2021 and March 2022, more than 270 people have contacted Healthwatch in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough about their experiences of dental care, with 86 per cent struggling to access timely care.
The shortage of NHS appointments has hit people on low incomes the hardest, meaning they are less likely to have dental treatment compared with those on higher incomes.
The poll also suggests that people from the poorest groups in society are six times less likely to be able to afford private dental care.
Chief executive officer, Sandie Smith, said: “Access to dentistry is one of the biggest issues people tell us about and we have repeatedly raised concerns about the problems people are having.
“Whilst we understand that changes to the local NHS contract means more routine appointments should be coming available in the near future, we remain very concerned at the lack of access to NHS dentistry for local people.”
Healthwatch England is making renewed calls on NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care to put a reformed contract in place before formal responsibility for dental services passes to the 42 new integrated care systems in April 2023.