Essex dental practices could extend hours to clear growing backlogs

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Dental practices in Essex could extend their opening hours as part of a new scheme to tackle growing backlogs.

The Mid and South Essex Integrated Care Board has proposed additional treatment hours to try to increase capacity and improve access to dental appointments in the area. Under the new plans, practices could open on bank holidays and weekends as well as offering out-of-hours care.

If the plans get the green light, some clinics will operate extended opening hours for 18 months. Under the new guidelines, patients with urgent needs would be prioritised.
Owen Richards, chief officer at Healthwatch Southend, welcomed the news, stating that more and more people were struggling to get appointments, which was contributing to DIY dentistry and patients experiencing severe pain and discomfort. The cost of living crisis has made the situation worse for many individuals and families, with most unable to afford private dentistry.

The extended hours programme will be part of a pilot scheme designed to improve local NHS services. There is currently a spending deficit of £46 million in the area and dentistry has been highlighted as a priority.

Research revealed that there are only eight surgeries accepting new NHS patients in the region, which is home to more than 719,000 people.

It is hoped that the scheme will launch in Mid and South Essex from September 1st. Further information about participating practices and opening hours will be provided for residents in due course.

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