Track­ing down an NHS

Find­ing an NHS den­tist in South Wales can be a big prob­lem, as SAN­DRA HEMBERY dis­cov­ered

South Wales Evening Post - - LETTERS -

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

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