A PLEA to halt the decline in access to NHS dentistry across Evesham and Pershore has been launched after a shortage of qualified dentists in Worcestershire was revealed.
Calls to make NHS dentistry more attractive with Government funding to make sure dentists are recruited where they are needed most have been made by local Liberal Democrats.
The shortage of NHS dentists was first highlighted back in January when the NHS Hereford and Worcestershire CCG saw an eight per cent drop in NHS dentists in the two counties.
And a survey conducted by Savanta ComRes for the Liberal Democrats revealed four out of ten people cannot afford the £250 average cost of a filling from a private dentist without borrowing money or turning to friends or family for financial assistance.
The same proportion said they could not afford the £370 required to have a wisdom tooth extracted, while nearly six in ten could not afford root canal surgery, which has an average cost of £970.
Dan Boatright, Pershore Liberal Democrat county councillor has investigated the situation in Worcestershire and said: “Anyone who wants an NHS dentist should be able to access one. Like many residents, I have struggled to gain access to affordable dentistry, and it is becoming a bigger problem as the cost-of-living crisis bites and people are forced to cut back.
“In the past two months alone, we have had word of practices in Evesham and Pershore closing their doors to NHS patients and moving to private practice.
“Our dental health has a huge impact on our general physical health and people should not have to be making decisions which put their long-term health and well-being at risk. We are calling for an improvement in access to care so that everyone can get a dentist when they need one.”
The research undertaken by Coun Boatright into local practices found the county has a shortage of qualified dentists with several vacancies going unfilled.
Practices are paid less than other areas with the rate offered per NHS appointment being £23 compared to the UK average of £28.
As a result, NHS contracts have become less attractive and, with government targets adding further pressure, the job has become financially impractical. As a result, most NHS dentists offset their losses on their NHS contract through private appointments.
In response, an NHS England and Improvement (Midlands) spokesperson said: “The NHS has taken unprecedented action to support NHS dentists throughout the pandemic by providing full income protection for practices unable to deliver their usual levels of activity.
“People should continue to come forward for the dental care they need, and the care and treatment of people who need it most should be prioritised.”