More Government action is needed to deal with ‘dentistry deserts’ and reduce the figure of two million people unable to find an NHS dentist says national charity Citizens Advice.
A report, called Gaps to Fill, published by Citizens Advice shows patients still face huge problems finding a dentist.
The report shows there is still huge inequality in access to NHS dentistry, with some areas such as Hartlepool and Hornchurch spoilt for choice and others including Blackburn and Petersfield with very poor access. People in rural communities such as Cornwall, Cheshire and North Wales are particularly disadvantaged if they rely on public transport, forcing them to take expensive, difficult and time-consuming journeys to reach a dentist.
The charity says that Government reforms introduced a year ago are not yet bringing equal access to NHS dentistry in England and Wales, and that only additional funding will really help the communities with poorest access to NHS dentistry.
More than 4,000 people completed a survey on the Citizens Advice website. Two-thirds of people who responded said they ended up going without any treatment due to huge problems accessing NHS dentistry and not being able to pay for expensive private treatment.
In the survey;
- 77% of survey respondents said one reason they couldn’t find a suitable NHS dentist was that there were no local dentists accepting NHS patients
- 37% said another reason was that there were long waiting lists for local NHS dentists
- 25% of respondents said the nearest dentist was too far away or too expensive to travel to
Patients have reported having to do round-trips as long as 120 miles to reach an NHS dentist. One survey respondent from Cornwall said, ”the nearest NHS dentists are too far away to reach, involving a whole day away and taking my 6-year-old daughter out of school for a whole day just to get her to a dentist.”
David Harker, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice says: "It is not acceptable that so many people are still going without dental care, putting not only their own health but often the health of their families at risk. PCTs now have a statutory duty to provide dentistry services to meet reasonable requirements. This must mean ensuring everyone has local access to this basic health service".
Department of Health figures released 23.03.07 state 55.7% of the population received dental treatment in the 24 months to December 2006, the same figure as the 24 months leading up to March 2006.
The Citizens Advice service is a network of independent charities that helps people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing free information and advice and by influencing policymakers.