Lack of access to NHS dentists in Wales set to ‘persist for a while’

walesWelsh health board admits a lack of access to regular dental care will ‘persist for a while yet’.

Anglesey’s Assembly Member (AM) Rhun ap Iorwerth is urging the health board to act.

He claims the lack of dentists in Wales could have very real implications for Anglesey.

‘It is a serious problem that has very real implications for dental health across the region’, Mr ap Iorwerth told BBC News.

‘Following a series of letters on this matter, the health board now admits the scale of the problem.

‘It says it’ll be some time before it’s resolved.

‘But this highlights the urgency with which we need to address the shortfall in services locally.

‘One of the problems highlighted regularly is a lack of dentists being trained and recruited locally.

‘We need them to solve this current crisis.’

Long-term solutions

Last month, BDA research showed only one in six NHS dental practices in Wales were accepting new adult patients.

Its research shows 55 out of 355, or 15.5%, practices in Wales are able to offer appointments.

Figures have dropped markedly since 2012 when 37% of new adult patients were able to find an NHS appointment.

‘We are working hard to identify opportunities to accommodate additional patients in neighbouring practices,’ Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board said in response to Mr ap Iorwerth.

‘We are developing a long-term solution for the provision of primary care dental services, which will involve commissioning new dental services in the area.’

Significant concern

Almost half (41%) of dental practices in Wales say they are taking daily enquiries from new patients seeking appointments.

One practice in Cardiff and Vale reported receiving more than 60 calls a day from would-be patients.

Another in Powys says it gets ‘endless calls daily’.

‘These figures confirm that the current NHS contract arrangements for dentists simply aren’t working,’ Plaid Cymru AM, Dr Dai Lloyd, said.

‘The low number of practices taking on new NHS patients and the variation between different parts of Wales is a significant concern.

‘People are not receiving the services that they need.

‘Recently, the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee undertook a review of dentistry in Wales.

‘We were clear that changes need to be made by the Welsh government in order to improve matters.

‘The current contract arrangements need to change if we are to see improvements.

‘The committee made a number of recommendations to the Welsh government around changing the current arrangements, and finding a new way of making sure everyone in Wales has access to quality dental services regardless of where they are.

‘We now await the response of the Welsh government to our recommendations.

‘Doing nothing is not an option.’

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