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Dentists: Welsh Government must ensure 5 hour queues don’t become ‘new normal’


  Posted by: The Probe      5th November 2018

As images of locals in Llangollen lining up around the block to sign up with an NHS dentist have gone viral, the British Dental Association has called on the Welsh Government and Local Health Boards in Wales to ensure this situation does not become the ‘new normal’- pressing for real reform of the failed NHS dental system.

Residents queued – some for as many as 5 hours – following the closure of a local practice in January. The BDA recently revealed people across Wales are increasingly facing a ‘postcode lottery’ of care – with official data showing that new patients are facing huge journeys to see an NHS dentist. Residents in Aberystwyth now face a 90-mile round trip, while those in Newtown face 80-mile journeys, and even those in the Welsh capital Cardiff face a nearly 30 miles trek.

Dentist leaders have said the widely discredited target-driven NHS dental system is fuelling access issues, and a crisis of staff recruitment and retention. When practitioners are unable to meet the tough targets set by government in their contracts, budget is returned to health boards, and not usually reinvested in NHS dental services. This system has seen £20 million lost from local NHS dental services in the last three years

The BDA has long advocated for root and branch reform of the system – which effectively caps patient numbers – as opposed to the modest ‘tweaks’ the Welsh Government is currently trailing, where several Local Health Boards are dragging their feet over the process and stalling the reform process. Recent official data reveals morale in the profession has fallen to its lowest levels since 2000 and more than half of dentists are considering leaving the profession.

Tom Bysouth, Chair of the BDA’s Welsh General Dental Practice Committee, said: 

“It’s the 21st Century, and a developed nation with universal healthcare shouldn’t see residents queuing round the block to access basic services. The Welsh Government and Local Health Boards have a responsibility to ensure the scenes in Llangollen do not become the new normal. 

“For over a decade dentistry in Wales has been shackled by a system that puts tick boxes and targets ahead of patient care. The result is patients are now travelling further or waiting longer for appointments, while practices are unable to attract or keep staff. 

“This postcode lottery must end to ensure that all those who want NHS care can access it.”

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