Den­tist caused us plenty of pain

South Wales Evening Post - - LETTERS -

clin­ics I was told the wait­ing list stretched back four to five years.

An­other den­tist’s re­cep­tion­ist said they were full to ca­pac­ity and hadn’t taken any­one off their list since 2015.

But ac­cess to a health ser­vice den­tist seems to be a post­code lot­tery.

If you live in Car­marthen­shire, if my sur­vey of den­tists there is any­thing to go by, you are vir­tu­ally guar­an­teed to be turned down.

Only one den­tist of­fered me the po­ten­tial of be­ing signed up when I rang.

How­ever, if you call Merthyr Tyd­fil your home, you have a strong pos­si­bil­ity of strik­ing it lucky. Four of the six den­tists I rang of­fered to take me on straight­away.

More of­ten than not I was of­fered the op­tion of join­ing a wait­ing list, some of which won’t even be re­viewed un­til next year.

The stark fig­ure means pa­tients must stump up hun­dreds of pounds more for some treat­ments than they would on the NHS.

For ex­am­ple, pay for a den­tal crown on the NHS and it will set you back £195. Have the same treat­ment pri­vately and it could cost you more than twice that.

Of the 13 den­tists I con­tacted in Swansea, one was able to take me on — but warned the sit­u­a­tion could change in days.

An­other said they could only take on chil­dren as new NHS pa­tients, while many said they had a wait­ing list stretch­ing for months.

In New­port, it’s a grim pic­ture if you’re an adult.

Some den­tists said they might be tak­ing on in the new year, but all had no va­can­cies for adult pa­tients.

In Cardiff, 17 calls to surg­eries yielded just three “yes” re­sponses.

Ac­cord­ing to the Bri­tish Den­tal As­so­ci­a­tion (BDA), pa­tients in some parts of Wales are be­ing forced to travel up to 90 miles for NHS treat­ment.

Data from NHS Di­rect re­veals that peo­ple in Aberys­t­wyth face the long­est round-trip jour­ney to reach an NHS prac­tice — 87.6 miles — while those in New­town must travel 80 miles, and those in Cardiff could see a 30-mile trip.

A spokesman for the BDA said the dif­fi­cul­ties arose after a 2006 health shake-up, which saw a cap placed on bud­gets.

He said: “It doesn’t help when there’s a high need from pa­tients who need time spent on them when you have a lim­ited amount of money stretched too thinly.”

He said the as­so­ci­a­tion had taken the mes­sage to the Welsh As­sem­bly and was in ne­go­ti­a­tions re­gard­ing a new con­tract.

Fig­ures put to Welsh As­sem­bly mem­bers re­cently re­vealed that £20 mil­lion had been “clawed back” from lo­cal NHS den­tal ser­vices in the last three years be­cause prac­ti­tion­ers had been un­able to meet tough tar­gets set by the Gov­ern­ment in their con­tracts.

Just 15% of NHS prac­tices were said to be tak­ing on new adult NHS pa­tients, and only 28% were ac­cept­ing new child pa­tients.

Tom Bysouth, chair of the BDA’S Welsh Gen­eral Den­tal Prac­tice Com­mit­tee, said: “The Welsh Gov­ern­ment talks about preven­tion, in­equal­i­ties and sus­tain­abil­ity. But we re­quire deeds not words to guar­an­tee the fu­ture of this ser­vice and end the post­code lot­tery of care.

“It’s ut­terly per­verse that £20 mil­lion has been lost from lo­cal ser­vices while some pa­tients are trav­el­ling 90 miles to see a den­tist un­der the NHS.

“Sadly, it’s the re­sult of a failed sys­tem.

“Wales has se­cured ma­jor break­throughs in­vest­ing in preven­tion among chil­dren, with health in­equal­i­ties nar­rowed and a chance to shave mil­lions off treat­ment costs. What’s miss­ing is a will­ing­ness to ap­ply that logic to fix­ing the sys­tem at the heart of this ser­vice. Any progress hinges on the Welsh Gov­ern­ment de­liv­er­ing real re­form.”

A Welsh Gov­ern­ment spokesman said: “It is dis­ap­point­ing that BDA Wales fail to recog­nise the sig­nif­i­cant changes we are mak­ing as part of our on­go­ing den­tal con­tract re­form pro­gramme.

“BDA Wales is ac­tively in­volved in this pro­gramme and changes are be­ing wel­comed by den­tal clin­i­cians. There are now some 120,000 more NHS pa­tients reg­u­larly re­ceiv­ing NHS den­tal care than a decade ago.

“How­ever, we ac­knowl­edge there are ar­eas where ac­cess re­mains dif­fi­cult and are work­ing to reach a po­si­tion where every­one in Wales who wants ac­cess to NHS den­tal care can get it.

“If a den­tal con­tract un­der­per­forms by over 5%, the health board is re­quired in leg­is­la­tion to re­cover the un­der-de­liv­ered amount. In many cases the re­cov­ered fund­ing is rein­vested straight back into al­ter­na­tive NHS den­tistry by the health board.

“Any re­source re­cov­ered as a re­sult of den­tal con­trac­tual un­der­per­for­mance re­mains with the health board.”

We con­tacted health boards across South Wales for com­ments.

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