Dental waiting lists reach 22,000 in Cornwall

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The number of people waiting for dental treatment in Cornwall has reached 22,000, according to the latest figures from NHS England.

The extent of Cornwall’s NHS dental access problem was revealed at a recent meeting of Cornwall Council’s health and adult social care overview and scrutiny committee. More than 22,000 people currently don’t have an NHS dentist, and the average waiting time to join a list is 529 days.

NHS England shared the statistics at the meeting, but stressed that current commissioning guidelines have not contributed to the problem. The trouble lies in the fact that dental practices are struggling to recruit staff, which means that they are unable to fulfil the terms of their contracts. The number of procedures commissioned by dentists in the county would be sufficient to eliminate the waiting lists and take on additional patients, but the dentist shortage and difficulties retaining staff have resulted in a standstill.

In 2018/2019, NHS England commissioned a total of 915,285 dental units spread across 72 providers in the county, but only 709,615 units were delivered. This means that more than 205,000 units were unfulfilled.

In a report made available to councillors, NHS England stated that if all the units that had been commissioned had been delivered, more than 68,000 extra patients could have seen an NHS dentist. This figure is three times higher than the number of people on the current waiting list.

NHS England also confirmed that a dedicated helpline, which is the first of its kind in England, has been set up in Devon and Cornwall to help patients find an NHS dental practice.

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