The demand from people for an NHS dentist is colossal. When I asked Plymouth’s local NHS recently how many people in the city are on their waiting list for an NHS dentist I was told that it was 5,158! The situation is probably made worse by the slight drop this year – to 28 – in the number of dental practices in the city offering NHS care. This might even be the tip of the iceberg as people are perfectly free to go to practices direct and ask to be put on their books.
Believe it or not, there has been a drop of over 1,000 in the size of the waiting list in the last year. I asked the local NHS about their dental waiting list back in March 2010 and was told then that there were 6,184 in the queue.
Dentists aren’t typically employed directly by the NHS. Like most GPs, they are independent contractors who are commissioned by the NHS to provide care. The Coalition Government is working on a new contract for dentists that should drive up the number of NHS patients seen by dentists.
I am pleased by the progress that is being made, not least because it’s an issue on which Plymouth Lib Dems campaigned ahead of last May’s General Election; we heard from many people about the problems they had getting to see an NHS dentist. I’ll be keeping an eye on this in the long term, especially on that waiting list.
Finally, I should say that the local NHS runs a Dental Access Centre. If you need emergency treatment or if you are suffering dental pain and are not on the books of a local dentist, you can secure an appointment by calling 0845 155 8070.