Senior dentist warns of long delays in restoring dental services in Wakefield

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A leading dentist has warned that it could take a long time to restore dental services in Wakefield due to the ongoing delays in accessing treatment caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Joe Hendron, from St Michael’s Dental Practice on Dewsbury Road, said that changes to the dental contract and subsequent funding inadequacies since the mid-2000s have contributed to a shortage of appointments and difficulties accessing NHS services. Speaking at a meeting of the health scrutiny committee, Mr Hendron explained that the current NHS contract places restrictions on practices even if they are able to take new patients on and offer more appointments. At the moment, once practices reach their activity targets, they are unable to offer additional courses of treatment even if they have the capacity to do so.

Mr Hendron suggested that the profession had been “crying out” for changes, which would enable the money “to follow the patient” but as yet, there have not been any modifications. A small number of local practices will be given greater flexibility to take on more patients as part of a new scheme, but Mr Hendron believes that the impact will be limited due to the scale of the problem. Stating that he did not wish to be “the bearer of bad news” the Wakefield dentist encouraged local authorities to communicate with the Department for Health and Social Care to push the issue of dental access and address contract reform.

Dentists across the country have expressed concerns about a lack of access to routine dentistry, which could contribute to an avalanche of cases of decay, gum disease and oral cancer in the coming weeks and months.

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