NHS England provides reassurance over Devon dental ‘crisis’

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NHS England has provided assurance over a dental ‘crisis’ in Devon.

Thousands of people are currently on a waiting list in the South West, with Devon and Cornwall the worst-affected counties in the UK in terms of NHS access problems. Despite growing waiting lists, representatives from NHS England have stated that access rates are above the national average for adults and children in Devon. Practices across the county are offering NHS places, according to the body.

Recent statistics showed that waiting lists in Plymouth were particularly concerning, with over 14,000 people waiting to get an appointment. More than 4,000 people in Exeter and 3,270 patients in Teignbridge are also on waiting lists. 

Figures suggest that the average waiting time in Devon and Cornwall is 18 months, despite the fact that dental professionals recommend 6-12 monthly routine checks. 

In response to concerns about NHS dental access in the South West, NHS England is encouraging patients to contact the regional helpline. The area is currently the only one in England with access to a dedicated helpline designed to help patients find a dentist. By registering with a central waiting list, patients will be allocated a place as and when they become available, and the process is likely to be quicker than registering interest with a specific practice. Patients who have been waiting the longest will be placed at a clinic first, and those who are prepared to travel may be able to find a place faster. 

Although access rates are above average for England, the rate has fallen and more patients are waiting. NHS England suggested that recruitment is one of the most significant barriers to improved access, with many practices struggling to fill vacancies. 

The helpline number for patients in Devon and Cornwall is 0333 006 3300.

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