Posted: Sat 18th Feb 2023

“No clear picture” on scale of NHS dentistry waiting lists in Wales

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Saturday, Feb 18th, 2023

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The true scale of the dentistry crisis in Wales is unknown, with no clear picture of how many people are currently waiting to see an NHS dentist. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

That is the warning from the Senedd Health and Social Care Committee, which this week released a report into its findings on the dentistry crisis in Wales. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

While COVID-19 inevitably had a severe impact on access to NHS dentistry, the report found there were long-standing issues prior to the pandemic. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

This includes testimonies from witnesses who spoke of historic underfunding, with budgets barely having changed in over a decade. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The cost of living is also having an impact on access to dentist services, with the committee raising concerns that it may lead to further inequalities in accessing dental services. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

As part of its inquiry, the committee asked people from across Wales for their experiences with seeking dental care. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Rhian Davies said her son had not seen a dentist in five years after the closure of her local NHS practice: “We just had a letter that said our practice was closing – gave us options for 3 other practices but they are so far away, one is 40 miles away. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“My child hasn’t seen anyone in a long time –he is 15 now and he hasn’t seen anyone for 5 years. Because he was not classed as an emergency then no one would look at him. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“We are a family of four and I don’t really want to go private but we are left with no choice.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The report also speaks of a two-tier system, between those who can afford to pay for private dental care and those who can’t. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

However it also warns of the creation of a three-tier system – which sees those unable to register at a dental practice being isolated. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Russell George MS, Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, says perhaps it’s time for radical reform. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

He said: “The pandemic has had a significant impact on access to NHS dentistry in Wales and we shouldn’t underestimate the negative effect it had on the workforce. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“But this report shows that these issues were a real problem even before Covid-19 – witnesses told us of historic underfunding over the last decade. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“The cost of living crisis is likely to make this problem worse, and result in more inequalities in how people access dental care. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“The Welsh Government’s latest contract reform has been broadly welcomed, but it is seen by some as merely tinkering round the edges when what is really needed is radical reform of the system.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

16 recommendations have been put forward by the committee, including calls for the Welsh Government to explore if current levels of funding are sufficient to tackle the backlog. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The committee have also proposed the Welsh Government considers a single centralised waiting list across Wales, with health boards to implement their own interim central waiting lists by the end of 2023. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

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