North Lancashire facing long waits for a dentist appointment

More than six thousand people are on the waiting list for an NHS dentist. Pic by John Twohig
More than six thousand people are on the waiting list for an NHS dentist. Pic by John Twohig

More than 6,000 patients in North Lancashire are currently on the waiting list to register at a NHS dentist.

From 2013-2014, 58,208 patients were treated under NHS dental contracts in Lancaster, Heysham, Morecambe, Carnforth and Galgate.

However 6,336 people arewaiting for an available place while others face long journeys to receive treatment.

NHS England is planning to open a new dental practice in Lancaster next year to tackle this problem.

But residents are becoming increasingly frustrated with the wait, some waiting at least a year to register.

Dr Joanna Heaton-Marriott from Scotforth works at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston.

She has been trying to get her three-year old son, Leo, an appointment since he was born.

Dr Heaton-Marriott said: “I had Leo on a waiting list at the surgery on Fenton Street but this was changed to an orthodontist.

“So he is now three and he has not even had someone look at his teeth.

“They need to prioritise children because it is so important that kids learn to take care of their teeth.”

Jackie Forshaw, Head of Primary Care (Lancashire) at NHS England said: “Lancaster and Morecambe is an area where there is an identified pressure on existing services, with approximately 4.5 per cent of the resident population currently seeking access to NHS Dental Services.

“However in the most recent GP patient satisfaction survey 90 per cent of those who responded stated that they were successful in getting an NHS dental appointment.

“All patients in Lancashire have access, within 24 hours, to immediate dental pain relief through the emergency dental services that operate seven days a week in the daytime and evening.

Eric Ollerenshaw, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, said the current NHS contracts for dentists are stopping new one’s being negotiated.

Mr Ollerenshaw said: “There are issues about a contract from 2007 that dentists are currently on. The contract got so complex dentists thought it would just be better to stay private.

“From what I have talked about with them, it is the endless form filling that goes with it. We are stopped by this contract until government negotiate a new one for more NHS dentists.”

Dentist Ian Wild, owner of Brockstreet Dental Practice, Lancaster, said the current NHS contracts are very time constrained.

He said: “The NHS contracts requires us to provide full NHS care for patients or new patients if we have the capacity. It is more time pressured. The dentists have to prove a required amount of dental care called UDAs - units of dental activity.”

A band one check-up on the NHS costs £18.30, band two is a filling at £52.50 and band three is £219 for more complex needs.

Mr Wild said: “It is very difficult to work under the new contract.

“The problem is that the local NHS team in charge of commissioning dental care haven’t got the budget to open more dentists.

“Our practice here has five surgeries but we can’t take on thousands at a time.”

It is hoped plans for a new dentist in the area will help reduce the number of people waiting for an appointment.

Mr Wild said: “The new dentist is because of new funding which has been on the cards for a while. It is not the local team’s fault it is more of a complex situation to gather central funding.”

NHS England advise people seeking a dentist to look on the NHS Choices website or call NHS 111.