Healthwatch Northamptonshire warns of deepening dental crisis

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Health watchdog, Healthwatch Northamptonshire, has warned of a deepening dental crisis in the county.

Figures from the British Dental Association revealed that fewer than 50% of patients in the county saw a dentist in the two-year period leading up to March 2021 and patients are struggling to get appointments. The watchdog has been inundated with calls from people who cannot find dental practices that are accepting NHS patients and even those who do have a regular dentist are unable to make an appointment.

Research and communications manager at the local watchdog, Jo Spencely, said that there has been a significant increase in the volume of calls related to dental access issues in recent months. The team has passed concerns onto NHS England commissioning departments but it is unlikely that the situation will improve in the near future because the pandemic has reduced capacity substantially. Healthwatch Northamptonshire has called for urgent modifications to the existing NHS dental contract and extra funding to help dentists tackle backlogs and make more appointments available.

One patient from Corby said that they had been looking for a dentist since just before the start of the pandemic but they have been unable to get an appointment. The patient said that their oral health had deteriorated to a point where the teeth were breaking yet they had still not managed to get emergency treatment.

There were also reports of a GP surgery contacting Healthwatch to ask for assistance for a patient who had broken their front teeth and couldn’t get an urgent dental appointment.

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