Surrey patients waiting months to see a dentist

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Patients in Surrey are finding it increasingly difficult to see a dentist, according to a local watchdog.

Healthwatch Surrey has experienced a surge in complaints in recent months, with many patients unable to get an appointment. One patient was told they would have to join a 55-week waiting list and some have been advised to consider private treatment if they want an appointment in the coming weeks.

Healthwatch Surrey received 60 complaints between August and December 2020, which is a six-fold increase from 2019/2020 and the watchdog has been inundated with calls in 2021. One person who contacted the body had called 20 dental practices across the county and had still been unable to get an appointment.

Many patients have also reported that the NHS website is out of date, with some practices indicating that they are accepting patients, which turns out to be untrue. Several people who have called practices after finding details via the NHS website or NHS 111 have been informed that they could only get a private appointment.

The situation in Surrey reflects a wider national issue. A recent report published by Healthwatch England suggested that some patients have been told they may have to wait up to three years to see a dentist if they want to have treatment on the NHS. There have also been widespread reports of an increase in DIY dentistry and patients being told to go private if they want to see a dentist without joining a waiting list of travelling.

Dental teams are still working through backlogs caused by the first lockdown and Covid-19 restrictions, which mean that patient numbers are limited. Patients have been encouraged to wait for routine treatment but those who need urgent assistance should contact their dentist or call 111. Practices are offering emergency treatment and there are hubs that can cater for patients who don’t have a regular dentist.

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