Wakefield Council to call for urgent NHS dental reform as patient sells personal possessions to pay private medical bill

Wakefield councillors are being urged to back a motion calling on the Government to urgently reform NHS dental services.

By Tony Gardner
Friday, 15th July 2022, 10:48 am
Updated Friday, 15th July 2022, 10:56 am

The move comes as the cost of dental services and access to a dentist has become a major concern for thousands of patients across the district since the start of the pandemic.

Wakefield West ward councillor Michael Graham said he had been contacted by a resident who had to sell personal possessions to pay a private dental bill as he was unable to get NHS treatment despite being in excruciating pain.

Coun Graham has put forward a motion calling on the local authority to write to the Health Secretary highlighting the poor state of dental provision across the district.

Wakefield councillors are being urged to back a motion calling on the Government to urgently reform NHS dental services.

He said: “Dental care services have been left underfunded and overstretched for over a decade now.

“The government’s NHS dental contract is completely unworkable and is driving more and more dentists into the private sector.

“We have hundreds of residents across the district who are struggling to find an NHS dentist.

“Some are finding it impossible to get an appointment, are living in pain and relying on painkillers to get by.

Councillor Michael Graham said he had been contacted by a resident who had to sell personal possessions to pay a private dental bill as he was unable to get NHS treatment despite being in excruciating pain.

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“If you find an NHS dentist that is taking on patients, the reality is you are put on a waiting list of up to 18 months.”

A recent Healthwatch survey of public attitudes to NHS dentistry shows that half of adults in England find dental charges unfair amid escalating living costs.

The watchdog has already warned decision-makers that NHS dentistry is in desperate need of reform.

Coun Graham said: “One person who contacted me was told she needed a root canal last year but couldn’t afford to pay for private treatment.

“After living in pain for over 12 months and developing two abscesses she called 111 and was told she needed urgent treatment.

“However, her nearest emergency appointment was 75 miles away in Grimsby.

“She is now on antibiotics but still can’t get to treatment.

“Another man was unable to get an appointment and was living in excruciating pain.

“Eventually he was given an emergency appointment and antibiotics but the dentist was unable to perform the treatment.

“He could not go private as he was unable to afford the £1,700 needed for his treatment.

“This is over five times more than it would cost on NHS..

“Eventually he had to sell possessions to meet the private bill and get the treatment.

“The poorest people are suffering the most.

“People are really struggling right now with the cost of living crisis, they can’t afford to go private.

“Not everyone drives and is able to travel miles and miles for an appointment.

“This situation is damaging the health of those who are most disadvantaged. It’s not fair.”

The motion, to be put to a full council meeting on Wednesday July 20 states: “The most common concerns expressed by residents are that local dentists are not taking on new patients, routine appointments are being cancelled, residents are experiencing difficulties in getting emergency appointments and treatments are being delayed or paused, to name a few.

“A significant number of practices in our area are not taking on new patients.”

The motion calls upon the Council’s Chief Executive, Andrew Balchin, alongside local health and NHS partners, to write a joint letter to the Health Secretary.

It calls for the letter to outline concerns over local provision and access to services and to suggest urgent reforms which need to take place, including boosting spending, reforming commissioning and implementing an urgent programme to recruit and retain more NHS dentists.