NHS dental treatment availability in Larne causing concerns

The Department of Health has stated dental practices are providing “as much activity as possible” after concerns were voiced about residents in east Antrim struggling to receive NHS dentistry during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Thursday, 26th August 2021, 5:23 pm

The issue was brought to the attention of the Times by East Antrim DUP MLA Gordon Lyons, who stated that it had been “a nightmare” for a number of residents to receive an appointment with an NHS dentist.

Mr Lyons said: “Over recent weeks, I have been contacted by scores of constituents in Larne who have been unable to access dental treatment on the NHS because their practices are only offering treatment privately. Even for those who can afford to pay for their treatment, private waiting lists are now lengthy and unwieldy.

“With a treatment backlog already built up because of the pandemic, this shortage of NHS dentists in the town is only exacerbating the problem. I am becoming increasingly concerned about the effect this could be having on the dental health of local people and I have written to the Health Minister to ask what action his Department is taking to ensure people can have access to dental treatment in a timely manner.

Mr Lyons said a number of residents have been unable to access dental treatment on the NHS.

“Despite the understandable focus on hospitals and social care during the pandemic, I fear that the current dental care crisis is not receiving the attention it deserves or warrants. Failure to tackle this problem urgently will lead to long term health consequences for many and that is why it is incumbent on the Health Minister to take immediate action to tackle the shortfall in NHS dentists and the pandemic backlog.”

One of the local residents who has struggled to access NHS dental care during the Coronavirus pandemic contaced the Times to highlight the issue. The person, who wished to remain anonymous, claimed: “A supervisor at a local GP practice has said there is a big problem with patients calling GPs in dental pain/distress desperate to find an NHS dentist.

“Unfortunately GPs are not trained to deal with dental issues. All local dentists are stating that you can either register with them privately, or you can go on a lengthy waiting list for NHS.

“Something urgently needs done about the situation as not everyone can afford to go privately and, due to the nature of either dental pain/distress, they need to see a dentist urgently and cannot wait on an NHS list opening up.”

In a statement issued to this newspaper today (Thursday), a spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on General Dental Services.

“The vast majority of General Dental Practitioners (GDPs) are doing their absolute best in very difficult circumstances, however the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) have received a number of calls from patients having difficulty accessing dental Health and Social Care (HSC) treatment.

“Advice has been provided to patients on how they may obtain appropriate dental care, dependent on their individual circumstances.

“If a patient is registered with a practice as a health service patient they are entitled to health service treatment as required, however, due to enhanced infection prevention and control measures, the number of patients a practice can treat each day is limited.

“In these circumstances dentists will treat patients in accordance with need, and this may mean that some routine dentistry will not be possible in the short term, whilst prioritising urgent cases.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic the Department has taken action to ensure that dental practices are providing as much activity as possible under the existing infection prevention and control measures.

“This includes delivering PPE to practices, providing funding to dentists for PPE and providing funding for practice modifications which will increase patient throughput.”

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