Patient Champion Healthwatch Kirklees has claimed the chronic lack of NHS dentists is causing patients to attend emergency services.

In Kirklees these services are currently provided by Local Care Direct at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.

Healthwatch Kirklees Director, Rory Deighton, said staff had been surveying people in the waiting room and found many were there as they could not afford private care.

He said: “There will always be a need for an Emergency or Unplanned Dental Service, however, what we are finding is that many people who attend are not emergencies at all.

“We’re hearing from patients who can’t find a local NHS dentist, and can’t afford a private one and come because this is the only way to get NHS dental care.

“We’ve seen 93-year-olds in waiting rooms, and children who end up in these clinics who have no NHS dentist and whose teeth are extracted because the decay is so poor. And we’ve seen patients whose abcesses get so bad that they have to be referred to hospital care.”

Healthwatch will be working until the middle of January to gather patient views, and will then share them with NHS England, who commission these services.

Patients who have used this service, who have stories to tell are encouraged to contact the charity so that their stories can help influence the new system.

Mr Deighton, added: “If you need to urgently see an NHS Dentist, then we’d recommend the Unplanned Service. Patients have told us how good it is. “Patients need to dial 111, and then will be asked a series of questions about how severe their problem is.

“If your pain is bad, then the NHS 111 advisor will help you get an appointment.”

Patients and carers can email their stories to info@healthwatchkirklees.co.uk or call the charity on 01924 450379, or fill in a short survey online https:// www.surveymonkey.com/s/RY6TSDV

The NHS is failing to offer fair access to dentists, a patients’ group has claimed.

Healthwatch Kirklees boss Rory Deighton has admitted deep frustration with the service after 12 months of failing to convince NHS England to change its approach to address what the community needs.

The patients’ rights charity’s research has found that just over half of adults in Kirklees (57%) have seen an NHS dentist in the last two years – which surprisingly is above the England average.

But it has revealed pockets of the district have a chronic shortage in NHS appointments, with one case revealing a ten-year-old from Dewsbury who had never seen a dentist.

Mr Deighton said the whole system for finding and accessing NHS dentistry appeared to be broken.

“The model isn’t right,” he said, “it’s not working for the benefit of the patients.”

The Healthwatch team’s research found that merely finding out which dentists were accepting new NHS patients was virtually impossible.

He said: “We’ve said the NHS Choices website should detail all the NHS dentists in Kirklees and who’s taking on new patients.

Health Watch Kirklees Director Rory Deighton
Health Watch Kirklees Director Rory Deighton
 

“But they don’t do it because if they say they are accepting new patients they get deluged with applications. They run their own private waiting lists and when they’re ready to invite someone in they make contact at that point.

“We’re concerned if you’re skilled, can use the internet and are happy to make seven or eight phone calls you’ll probably find an NHS dentist eventually.

“But that leaves out the more vulnerable people who don’t have the time or the internet, or those who are easily discouraged. It’s a daft situation – there should be one number where you can call that actually tells you who is taking on NHS patients in Kirklees.”

NHS England does run a Dental Advice Line, but Mr Deighton said calls to the service in Leeds had also proved fruitless.

“We rang them nine times and nobody picked up the phone,” he said. “When we did get through they gave us a list of eight practices who were supposedly taking on new patients, but we rang them and only one was.”

Healthwatch’s research has also found that spending on NHS dentistry is vastly unequal.

NHS services are measured in units of dental activity (UDA) and dentists are given a certain amount of UDAs they can offer.

In the Greenhead ward, there are six dental practices to serve 19,912 people, offering 84,733 UDAs – 4.26 UDA per head

But in Dewsbury West ward – an area with more than 20,000 people – there was only one dental practice offering NHS services.

A quota of just 5,958 UDAs was up for grabs for residents, just 0.3 per head.

“A significant part of the problem is the way the whole service is commissioned,” said Mr Deighton. “I don’t think dentists like it. It doesn’t work to the benefit of patients.

“Each practice really makes their money from their private business. It’s set up to help them make a profit not in a way to help patients access services.

“We should be commissioning a service around what patients want not what dentists want to provide.

“NHS England has failed to do that up to now.

“We seem to have accepted what used to be a universal service is now private.

“I think many of us just assume we’re not eligible, we’ve given up on NHS dentistry.

“I don’t accept that 43% of the population want to do that.

“There will always be some people who want to go private but I think there is a chunk of the population who just find it too difficult to get a dentist.

“NHS England are failing to move money around the system to reflect where people want to access services.

“How has the NHS allowed services to be run by what private companies want as opposed to the need of a community. Where’s the basic fairness?”

Trying to find a dentist that won’t charge you the earth can be as painful as toothache itself.

After a recently move to Kirklees I thought it was time to move from the north Leeds dental practice that has treated me since the age of eight, especially as for the past ten years it has charged me £50 for a ten minute check up. Great work if you can get it!

I took the move as my chance to resume using NHS dentistry, something lost to me in the 1990s when my Leeds practice went private.

To be completely honest I had no idea what my rights for getting NHS treatment were.

“Is it just for those on benefits or are we all eligible?” I asked various people.

They generally shrugged and admitted they too were unsure.

It turns out the days of completely free check-ups and fillings are long gone unless you are on benefits.

However, the NHS does still offer a much cheaper alternative to private practice services.

But even explaining that is fairly complicated. In essence NHS services will cost less than half of what they are privately in most scenarios.

A check-up and simple polishing or scaling work should cost £18.50. More serious treatment such a root-canal work, gum disease treatment or removing teeth will be £50.50.

The highest charge is £219 – reserved for crowns, bridges, veneers and dentures.

While understanding the charging structure may be complicated; finding a dentist offering NHS treatment can be even more difficult.

 

At the time of my search last month there was not one dental practice in my home postcode of WF14 offering NHS treatment.

A search on the NHS Choices website reveals only one of more than 50 practices within five miles of my home were taking new NHS patients.

A similar search for central Huddersfield finds only four – two of which are in Calderdale.

In the end, completely by chance after mentioning this article to a colleague, I found an NHS dentist in Greenhead was offering NHS work.

My understanding is that many dentists would like to offer more NHS treatment but find their hands tied by NHS England contracts, which don’t seem to be able to adapt to where there is demand.

It’s clear that NHS dentistry – like many parts of the service – is in crisis. It’s just that a problem with plaque won’t spark many protests.

Healthwatch Kirklees’ guide on how to find an NHS dentist.

It can be difficult to find dentist an NHS dentist in Kirklees, but patients should not give up.

The first point of call is to contact local NHS dentists and find out if they are accepting new patients. If they are currently not accepting new patients then the patient should ask to be placed on their waiting list.

If you want to move things along and are prepared to look outside of your neighbourhood then contact NHS Leeds Dental Advice Line on 0800 298 5787 (Mon-Fri 9am to 5pm). Although the Leeds Dental Advice Line was specifically created for patients in Leeds, they are provisionally offering a service to people in Kirklees as well.

If you are experiencing pain and require urgent treatment, contact NHS 111 for advice on where to go.

If you are still struggling to find a dentist contact Healthwatch Kirklees for help on 01924 450379.

The British Dental Association (BDA) said the root of the problems with access to NHS care were due to the way dentists were paid following a restructure in 2006.

The British Dental Association (BDA) said the root of the problems with access to NHS care were due to the way dentists were paid following a restructure in 2006.

A spokeswoman for the BDA, said: “The way dentistry is commissioned in England is very complex. Dentists have to compete for work on the NHS and may or may not secure a contract which will be of a fixed size and a fixed budget.

“Therefore, their capacity to take on new patients will be limited by the size of that contract, which has to be spread out over the year.

“Their capacity to take on new patients is also limited by the fact that dentists have to invest their own funds to set up a dental practice, equip it, and employ staff to run it – so their practices have to be viable.

“In some instances dentists may have spare capacity or want to provide more dental care on the NHS but if it’s beyond the size of the contract then they won’t be paid for this work.

“The BDA and patient groups complained about this contract from the start of 2006 because of the rigid, target driven nature of the contract and have called for it to be replaced by a new more patient-centred contract and one that embraces preventive care.

“In this regard, pilots have been underway for the past few years to test this new way of providing care.”