Dentists run out of room for more NHS patients

'We have zero capacity' warning

Thursday, 22nd July 2021 — By Tom Foot


Long waiting list for dental help

ALL dentists have stopped accepting new NHS patients, according to a report from Camden’s health watchdog.

Thirty-three practices, surveyed by Camden Healthwatch, said a pandemic backlog meant they did not have the “capacity” to cope.

Restrictions reduced the amount of patients who could be seen, leading to long waiting lists, and there were calls for urgent funding.

Healthwatch director Matthew Parris said: “We noticed a substantial increase in the number of people approaching us with concerns about getting access to dentistry. People weren’t able to register at a practice and a number of people had urgent dental needs. One of the aspects has been to learn about how little is known about the provision locally.

“What the findings have suggested to us is that dentistry needs are growing. There is an unmet need, particularly in communities who were unable to pay.

“If people were not able to register, they are being told to either wait or pay privately. There is a real risk health inequalities will be exacerbated.”

He added: “I don’t think the solution is about dentists behaving differently. It’s a systemic issue. Fundamentally, dentistry needs to have more capacity. As the pandemic restrictions are lifted, it comes back to capacity and funding.”

Four practices responding to Healthwatch said they are unable to offer NHS appointments for existing patients.

Just under half of the practices said they would not take any NHS patients in an emergency.

One dentist, who did not want to be named, said: “We have zero capacity [for more NHS patients]. We stopped taking new NHS patients a month ago. We stayed open during the pandemic because we quickly put everything in place and had PPE, so everyone came to us and now we are overbooked.

“We can’t even see our own patients because we are so overbooked.”

The council is responsible for assessing need in Camden and Healthwatch says it hopes the Town Hall will conduct a review. Urgent dental care is available on the NHS in Camden if you call 111.

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