Home   News   Article

Dozens of dentists quit NHS in Norfolk and Waveney as union warns service is 'hanging by a thread'

More news, no ads


More than 40 dentists in our region have stopped providing NHS care over the last three years, according to new figures.

Union leaders have warned the service is "hanging by a thread" amid reports that some patients have been left facing two-year waits for routine check ups.

But the NHS claims it has taken "unprecedented action" to support the sector through the Covid crisis.

More than 40 dentists have stopped providing NHS care in our region, according to new analysis.
More than 40 dentists have stopped providing NHS care in our region, according to new analysis.

The extent of the crisis facing NHS dentistry has begun to emerge after two West Norfolk residents spoke out about their struggles to find care here.

Analysis by the BBC's Shared Data Unit has revealed there were 391 dentists carrying out NHS treatment in the Norfolk and Waveney region last year, down by 42 in three years.

And, among the 50 dental practices listed as being closest to Lynn on the NHS' own online search tool, just one is listed is currently taking new NHS patients, while another is listed as only accepting referrals.

Sixteen are listed as not accepting NHS patients at all, while 32 are described as not having provided a recent update about their status.

Union and health campaign officials say they are worried about the extent of the crisis, which they fear could get worse.

Shawn Charlwood, of the British Dental Association, said his organisation had been raising concerns about the provision of NHS dentistry for many years.

The group has warned that recently imposed changes to NHS contracts are likely to make things worse.

He said: "The system is not delivering the care that patients want, in terms of prevention particularly, and it’s not allowing dentists and their teams to deliver that care.

"Covid has exacerbated the fracture lines within the NHS dental service.

"NHS dentistry is hanging by a thread, because without NHS dentists, there will be no NHS dentistry.

"We’re seeing significant numbers of dentists indicating that they will be leaving the NHS dental service.

"It’s a really serious situation and every dentist that is lost or every vacancy for NHS dentistry remains unfilled affects thousands of patients in terms of care and their ability to access care."

Chris McCann, interim national director of Healthwatch, said problems with dental care now account for around a quarter of the correspondence received by his organisation, compared to around five per cent before the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: "We've heard examples of people being told that they have to wait for up to two years for routine check-ups, and up to six weeks for emergency care.

"These lengthy waits can lead to more serious problems and long term that leads to increased pressure on the NHS. We've even seen, in the most extreme cases, people performing DIY extractions.

"But in the long term you've got the issue that if people aren't seeing their dentists then more serious conditions, for instance, most cancers, might not be picked up, which obviously is very serious and it bleeds to further pressures elsewhere in the system."

An NHS spokesman said: “The NHS has taken unprecedented action to support NHS dentists throughout the pandemic by providing additional funding for practices unable to deliver their usual levels of activity, alongside rapidly setting up 600 urgent dental centres across England so patient services could be maintained during the pandemic.

“People should continue to come forward for the dental care they need, and the care and treatment of people who need it most should be prioritised.”

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More