Healthwatch Norfolk calls for new dental school to solve shortages

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Healthwatch Norfolk has called for a new dental school to open in the region to solve access problems linked to a shortage of dentists.

Chief executive of Healthwatch Norfolk, Alex Stewart, said that there is no “easy way out” as dental teams are currently working tirelessly to see as many patients as possible but there is still a severe shortage of appointments available. Many people are contacting the watchdog to report problems getting an appointment, with most having to travel long distances, join a waiting list or consider going private.

There was already a shortage of dentists before the pandemic but the Covid-19 crisis has created significant backlogs. Practices were closed for several weeks between March and June 2020 and have since been running at reduced capacities to protect staff and patients. Now, teams are trying to wade through urgent and priority cases, with waiting times for routine treatment building all the time.

Mr Stewart believes that one solution that could make a positive difference in the future is opening a new dental school in Norfolk and encouraging graduates and dentists who have already qualified to settle in the region.

Troy Thomson is one of many patients who have shared stories on social media sites, such as Facebook. Having tried to get an emergency appointment for five days without success, he ended up booking an appointment to see a private dentist and paying £700 for root canal treatment.

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