Cornwall Council votes to take action on dentist shortage

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Cornwall Council votes to take action on dentist shortage

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There are over 48,000 patients on NHS dentistry waiting lists in Devon and Cornwall, according to NHS England data. (Photograph: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)

Tue. 23 April 2019

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CORNWALL, UK: A cross-party group of councillors in Cornwall have voted to take action over the growing access and recruitment problems facing NHS dental services across the county. The decision has been welcomed by the British Dental Association (BDA), which framed this as indicative of a larger issue regarding access to NHS dental care across the UK.

New NHS England data shows that there are over 48,000 patients on NHS dentistry waiting lists in Devon and Cornwall, and that these patients face an average waiting time of 477 days. In comparison, just 18,508 were on waiting lists in January 2016, with an average waiting time of 357 days.

At a Cornwall Council meeting last week, independent councillor Loic Rich tabled a motion to call for the council to use its community network panels to investigate what could be done about the shortage of dentists in the area. Liberal Democrat councillor Colin Martin put forward an amendment, however, that called for the council’s scrutiny committee to consider the issue. In addition, the council intends to contact Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, to highlight the issue and present possible solutions.

Earlier this year, the BDA conducted an analysis of data published by NHS England and found that an estimated one million patients had tried and failed to secure an NHS appointment in 2018. In Cornwall, this number was estimated to be around 22,000, representing 43 per cent of patients not already on the books of an NHS dentist.

“Councillors in Cornwall are showing the kind of leadership we really need to see from Westminster,” said Dr Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, Chair of the General Dental Practice Committee of the BDA. “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,” he added.

“Aren’t a million anecdotes enough to make ministers wake up to this problem?” he concluded.

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