Healthwatch Bolton criticises dental services as patients struggle to find NHS places
Healthwatch Bolton, an independent patient watchdog, has criticised local dental services, as patients struggle to find NHS places.
The group has raised concerns over NHS dental provision after it was reported that a quarter of dentists in the town have left the service. Patients are contacting the watchdog with increasing regularity, often raising the same issues. Residents are not able to find a dental practice that is accepting patients or offering appointments and they can’t afford to pay for private dental care.
A spokesperson for Healthwatch Bolton said that access to NHS dentistry has been a problem for a long time, but historically, it was usually possible to find practices in the area that were taking on new patients. Now, it’s “virtually impossible” to get an appointment without paying to see a private dentist. The group also described the NHS ‘find a dentist’ tool as “not fit for purpose.”
Healthwatch Bolton claims that every patient who has called about dental access issues is unable to afford private dentistry and suggested that extra funding worth £50 million for 350,000 additional NHS dental appointments across the country had not benefited Bolton residents. Some people who have called have been suffering in agony for weeks and others have resorted to DIY dentistry or taken out loans to pay for private services.
Dentist and chair of Greater Manchester Local Dental Network, Mohsan Ahmad, acknowledged that there are issues, which are affecting most parts of the country at the moment. The pandemic has “exacerbated existing challenges” and put dental services under intense pressure. Anyone who does not have a dentist and needs urgent help can contact the Greater Manchester dental helpline on 0333 332 3800.
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