The National Health Service is responsible to provide affordable dental services in the United Kingdom and ensure availability of dental services for the entire population but since a long time, the NHS has been failing to provide adequate dental treatment serving less than half the population. Reports of no dentists taking in new patients or being put in long waiting lists have surfaced since years although the NHS has been unable to do anything to improve this situation, with worries such as dental negligence and the impact of staff shortage.
The NHS website states that Dental practices are not always able to take on new patients and you may be required to join a waiting list or look for a different dentist or seek private dental treatment. However, opting for private dental service is unrealistic for most of the population due to the high costs. The NHS asks people to raise their concerns to NHS England and if you are still unable to get a dental appointment you are asked to file a complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Services. Numerous people in South Lakes have taken this approach with no significant changes brought to the dental system as of yet. This problem is not a new one, since the new contract was introduced in 2006; availability of dental services has seen a sharp decline in South Lakes leading to a critical shortage.
MP Farron has claimed he receives numerous complaints via letters every week regarding the dental shortage crisis. Long-term patients of dental practices have been let go owing to the shortage. Many people call dental practices daily hoping for a vacancy to open up but always end up being put in lengthy never ending waiting lists. Many dentists have stopped providing NHS services and gone private. Dental practices earn a lot more from going private than following the NHS dental practice.
Some dental practices have also claimed they have stopped receiving funding from the NHS which is why they can’t take on NHS patients anymore. Many patients have been forced to pay high amounts for private treatment as the NHS has failed to increase access to care for dental patients and at the same time failed to allow dentists to provide the care they want to deliver with such a low funding. Many patients are forced to consult their General Practitioner for dental issues and GP as a replacement for dentist is not adequate in any way since they are not equipped to provide dental care. Due to this severe lack of dentists, a hostile environment has also developed for patients seeking dental care.
Patients requiring dental care need to register on the NHS website and go to the ‘Find Dentists Service’ in their area. A search for dentists in Kendal reveals 68 services and most of them are not accepting any new adult patients or only taking in patients by referral from other dental practices. With a population of more than one hundred thousand and less than 100 dental practices most of which don’t even accept new patients, there has been a chronic shortage of dentists for South Lakes. Most South Lake locals have been in waiting list for months with no vacancy in sight. Stories of NHS dental services shortage are not new but have now become a crisis in South Lakes with locals calling for action as a cry for help.