'Dental deserts' leave patients waiting up to a year for check ups

In Devon and Cornwall over half of surgeries had at least one vacancy
In Devon and Cornwall over half of surgeries had at least one vacancy

"Dental deserts" in rural areas have left patients waiting up to a year for a check up.

Dentists have warned that over half of surgeries in areas such as Cumbria, Devon and Cornwall are understaffed.

This has left patients waiting up to 12 months for an appointment, with some considering going private.

One unnamed woman, speaking to the BBC's Farming Today, said: "I called for an appointment in November and they gave me a 7 December appointment which I was quite happy with.

"Then they said it was 2023 not 2022 which I was quite surprised about because it was 12 months away."

The woman, who lives in a rural coastal town, said the lengthy delay meant she and her daughter, who needs an operation, had not had an appointment for the past three years.

She added: "I know there is a backlog from the pandemic but she needs an operation where they are going to take two canines out.

"One of them is in her palate which is starting to hurt so it's coming through and I wouldn't want to call 999 for this kind of thing."

She told the programme that she had considered going private, but surgeries were charging up to £65 for an individual x-ray.

Dr Ian Mills, Associate Professor of Dentistry at the University of Plymouth warned rural areas were being hit hardest by the lack of dentists working in the NHS.

He said: "A group in Newcastle have looked at vacancies in cumbria and one of their headline figures is around 54 per cent of practices that were surveyed had at least one vacancy for a dentist and clearly that impacted severely on access."

In Devon and Cornwall, Dr Mills added, around 57 per cent of surgeries had at least one vacancy.

He continued: "So around half of practices say they have at least one vacancy.

"Some have multiple vacancies and one had six dentists missing from their practice."

Last October it was revealed “Dental deserts” have left just one NHS dentist per 16,000 people in some parts of the country.

The figures showed that on average, there is now one NHS dentist per 6,849 people in England - down from one per 6,667 in 2019.

Even in the areas with the most NHS dentists, there is less than one NHS dentist per 1,000 people.
The analysis of the data, collected by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and published as a rate per 1,000 residents on the LGA’s data platform, shows no local authority area in the country has more than one dentist providing NHS treatment per 1,000 people.