The Daily Telegraph

‘Dental deserts’ leave patients waiting a year for a check-up

- By Will Bolton

“DENTAL deserts” in rural areas have left patients waiting up to a year for an appointmen­t.

Practition­ers have warned that more than half of surgeries in areas such as Cumbria and Devon and Cornwall are understaff­ed.

One patient, who asked not to be named, has told how she was left waiting up to 12 months for an appointmen­t.

She said: “I called for an appointmen­t in November and they gave me a December 7 appointmen­t which I was quite happy with. Then they said it was 2023 not 2022.”

The woman, who lives in a rural coastal town, said the lengthy delay meant she and her daughter, who needs an operation, had not had an appointmen­t

‘I know there is a backlog but she needs an operation where they are going to take two canines out’

for the past three years. She added: “I know there is a backlog from the pandemic but she needs an operation where they are going to take two canines out. One of them is in her palate which is starting to hurt so it’s coming through and I wouldn’t want to call 999 for this kind of thing.”

She told BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today that she had considered going private, but surgeries were charging up to £65 for an X-ray.

Dr Ian Mills, associate professor of dentistry at the University of Plymouth, warned that rural areas were being affected most by the lack of dentists working in the NHS.

He said: “A group in Newcastle have looked at vacancies in Cumbria and one of their headline figures is around 54 per cent of practices that were surveyed had at least one vacancy for a dentist and that impacted severely on access.”

In Devon and Cornwall, Dr Mills added, about 57 per cent of surgeries had at least one vacancy.

He continued: “So around half of practices say they have at least one vacancy. Some have multiple vacancies and one had six dentists missing from their practice.”

Last October it was revealed that “Dental deserts” have left just one NHS dentist per 16,000 people in some parts of the country.

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