Calderdale children 'face years of pain' due to dentist backlogs on teeth extractions

Children in Calderdale are waiting over two years to have teeth extracted due to the backlog of cases facing dentists, the British Dental Association has warned.

Saturday, 23rd October 2021, 8:00 am

It comes as the BDA and Healthwatch England wrote to Chancellor Rishi Sunak to warn that children across the country are struggling to access NHS dental care and risk being left in pain as dentists grapple with the backlog built up during the coronavirus pandemic.

A spokesperson for the BDA said: “The BDA understands waiting lists for extractions of children’s teeth in York and Calderdale/Kirklees areas are now over 24 months. These procedures – which take place in hospitals under general anaesthetic – have also been impacted by the disruption to elective procedures. These children face years of pain, and difficulty eating, speaking and socialising as a result.

“The collapse in access to high street services is preventing the early signs of decay from being spotted early, meaning this backlog will grow. Failure to support primary care is having knock-ons on secondary care.

“With sugar-rich lockdown diets, suspension of public health programmes, and ongoing access challenges demand is set to grow among children.”

Four in five patients, including children, who contacted Healthwatch about dentistry have struggled to access timely care.

There have been 30m fewer dentist appointments than expected since the first lockdown and dental services will continue to feel the impact of the pandemic for “years to come”, they added as they called on the Treasury to take action in the forthcoming spending review.

In a letter to Mr Sunak, the organisations called for a recovery plan for dentistry but said patient fees should not be increased to balance the books.

The organisations warned that fees – paid by adult patients unless they have certain exemptions – have “morphed into a substitute for meaningful state investment”.

Healthwatch England also claimed that some people will need to wait for up to three years for dental care while patients reported pulling out their own teeth or being told to use “DIY filling kits”.

The letter from Sir Robert Francis QC, Healthwatch England’s chairman, and the BDA’s chairman, Eddie Crouch, states: “NHS dentistry faces an unprecedented backlog – the initial suspension of face-to-face care, and ongoing restrictions mean over 30m appointments have been lost since lockdown, and patients and the NHS will be feeling the impact for years to come.”

Sir Robert said: “Lack of access to NHS dentistry has exploded as an issue for people over the last year, with both the volume of feedback and negative sentiment going through the roof.

“We’ve heard from patients up and down the country unable to find care, leaving them in pain and taking matters into their own hands.

“We’ve also heard from parents unable to register their children with an NHS dentist, as local dental practices weren’t taking on new patients, had gone private or had closed down.

“Every part of the country is facing a dental care crisis, with NHS dentistry at risk of vanishing into the void.

“The Government needs to use the forthcoming spending review to provide vital investment in services like dentistry that help keep us all healthy and ensure we build back better for current and future generations.”

In Parliament, Health Secretary Sajid Javid admitted there was a “real issue” with access to dentistry services in England but said forthcoming recommendations on changes to Covid working practices should help clear the backlog in cases.

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