Tracking down an NHS
Finding an NHS dentist in South Wales can be a big problem, as SANDRA HEMBERY discovered
IT started with a raging toothache. My partner and I had just moved to a small village in South West Wales and, as we were settling in, his problems began.
Suddenly, the need to register with a dentist moved sharply up the to-do list.
But as we started to call dentists it became painfully clear this was not going to be an easy task.
As an emergency treatment was needed, he plumped for a private practice.
But as I continued the ring-round for myself, a grim picture emerged.
Relocating from Kent, I had not anticipated any difficulties, as it had been easy to move between dentists there.
But a first call to a dentist seven miles away in Carmarthen was greeted with a “no”. OK, phone another. That came back with another negative. They had a waiting list, but noone could register me to join a dentist straightaway.
As the number of dentists in the area was limited, it gave me no other option than to look around to see if there was help to find someone taking on new NHS patients.
I called the Hywel Dda and Powys dental helpline, and was promised a call back within four hours. That didn’t happen, so I tried again.
Within a few hours I was phoned back. The answer was not the one I wanted.
I was told: “There’s limited availability for dentists that are taking on NHS patients.”
For that, read “no availability”. In the meantime, the helpful man suggested I could try Llanelli.
There was no-one taking on there at the moment, but there was a nine to 12 months’ wait for the first appointment there (which I figured must be better than the wait for Carmarthen).
All well and good... only Llanelli is a 46-mile round trip from my home. It would take me 50 minutes just to get to the dentist by car and then the same back.
The man said patients in Swansea were facing a two to three-month wait.
It’s a different picture if you call a private dentist, where it’s possible to get treatment, but at a price.
As a reporter, I decided to Google NHS dentists around South Wales and call them to see what availability there is elsewhere.
After calls to around 80 dentists it was clear it’s virtually impossible in some places to be accepted on to an NHS register.
A staggering 88% of the practices I phoned said their books were not open to new clients. At some