EXCLUSIVE – Inside the town where people queue overnight to get a dentist: Exasperated locals say they’ve travelled 2,300 MILES to Turkey and even removed their OWN teeth with pliers because they can’t find an NHS space
- Dentist in Kent overwhelmed by new patients after they had 20 new NHS places
- Residents went to extraordinary lengths after not being able to get treatment
Frustrated Britons fed up with being unable to see their local dentist have described how they’ve travelled more than 2,000 miles to Turkey and even removed their own teeth with pliers because they can’t find an NHS space.
A mother and tradesman are among locals in Faversham, Kent who have spoken out after the Smiles dental surgery was overwhelmed by new patients after the dentist announced it had 20 new NHS places.
The practice was swamped by 27,000 phone calls – while more than 100 were desperately queuing outside by 8am – as thousands across the country have been left without care due to a national shortage of dentists.
Mother Amanda Copp travelled to Turkey to save hundreds of pounds on treatment. The 41-year-old explained: ‘I had a problem with one of the veneers on my teeth. I was very painful.
Mother Amanda Copp, 41, travelled to Turkey to save hundreds of pounds on treatment – after she was told it would cost her £3,000
Smiles dental surgery in Faversham, Kent, was overwhelmed by new patients after the dentist announced it had 20 new NHS places
‘I’m not a NHS patient and the dentist told me it would cost £3,000 to do it privately. I did some research and I found out I could get it done privately in Turkey for two-thirds of the price.
‘So I flew to Istanbul and spent three days getting it done. I didn’t really like having to get it done in Turkey but the dental treatment was great. They did it all within three hours. But to be honest I didn’t think I had a choice. It’s impossible to get an NHS dentist in Faversham.’
Flooring expert Tristan Clark, 25, told MailOnline: ‘I don’t have a dentist, hardly anyone in Faversham does. So when I got a toothache I had to pull it out myself.
‘It was a wisdom tooth which can come through in a bad way. I couldn’t go to the dentist because I’m not registered as an NHS patient anywhere and would have cost hundreds of pounds to have it taken privately.
‘I was in so much pain that I got it out myself. I used a pair of pliers. It was so painful but so was the toothache. It knocked me out for a couple of days.’
Flooring expert Tristan Clark, 25, from Faversham, had to pull his own wisdom tooth out because he doesn’t have an NHS dentist
Faversham Smiles was swamped by 27,000 phone calls – while more than 100 were desperately queuing outside by 8am
Mother-of-twins Fay Ackland told how she could only get her daughters on to a dentist’s waiting list as NHS patients, despite arriving outside the offices of Smiles in Faversham shortly after dawn.
Practice manager Elli Cain shared a photograph of the queue stretching all the way down the street, on Facebook shortly after 4pm on Tuesday.
After being overwhelmed by applications, the dentist finally said it would take on the first 20 people who queued outside its building the first 20 patients to email after it opened at 8am, and the first 20 phone calls answered.
Mother-of-twins Fay Ackland told how she could only get her daughters on to a dentist’s waiting list as NHS patients, despite arriving outside the offices of Smiles in Faversham shortly after dawn
According to NHS Digital data, London recorded the lowest percentage of adults who have seen and NHS dentist in two years. The North East and Yorkshire recorded the highest rate at 41.8 per cent
Ms Ackland told MailOnline: ‘When I heard that Smiles was accepting new NHS patients I was outside first thing the following day.
‘I got there at 7am but already I was too late.
‘There was a lady from the dentist walking around with a clipboard. She said the best she could do was to put my girls on the waiting list.
‘There were people queuing up all night to get in on the NHS.
‘So they are now number 40 on the waiting list and they have their first appointment in six-months-time.
‘When it comes to then if there are no NHS space then we will have to pay.
Faversham local Sophie Cartwright must take her children half-way across Kent to get treatment.
The number of dentists who carry out NHS treatment each year has dropped sharply during the Covid pandemic but has slightly recovered to just over 24,000, according to the latest data
She told MailOnline: ‘We live in Faversham but we can’t get a dentist here.
‘I’ve got a dentist in Canterbury and my children have a dentist in Whitstable.
‘It’s a real pain as it takes ages to get there on the train.’
New mother Ebony Dobson added: ‘I haven’t been to the dentist in years because you can’t get in anywhere.
‘My daughter Florence is six-months but I don’t know what I’m going to do when she needs a check-up. There are so many new houses going up around Faversham but there aren’t enough doctors or dentists to cater for everyone.’
Dog-owner Jon Russell says it was ‘blind luck’ that he was accepted as an NHS patient at his local dentist when he moved to Faversham.
He said: ‘We moved to Faversham about three years and it was just blind luck that we were taken on at our local dentist as NHS patients.
Dog-owner Jon Russell says it was ‘blind luck’ that he was accepted as an NHS patient at his local dentist when he moved to Faversham
‘You hear a lot about the lack of dentist’s place here.’
Radical plans considered by the Government could mean that British dentists are forced to work for the NHS for years after finishing their qualifications.
The plans, which were unveiled by Rishi Sunak last week, aim to help the thousands of patients needing dental work under the NHS.
Some areas of the country have been deemed ‘dental deserts’ due to having just one dentist per 13,000 people.
How much does NHS dentistry cost?
There are 3 NHS charge bands. But NHS dental charges will increase by 8.5 per cent from April 24, the largest single jump since the current system of charges was introduced in 2006.
Band 1: £23.80
From April 24: £25.80
Covers an examination, diagnosis and advice. If necessary, it also includes X-rays, a scale and polish, and planning for further treatment.
Band 2: £65.20
From April 24: £70.70
Covers everything included in Band 1, plus additional treatment, such as fillings, root canal treatment and removing teeth (extractions).
Band 3: £282.80
From April 24: £306.80
Covers all treatment included in Bands 1 and 2, plus more complex procedures, such as crowns, dentures and bridges.
For comparison, check-ups can cost between £20 and £120 at private dentists, according to the consumer group Which?.
Dentures and bridges can also cost up to £2,520, it says.
Mr Sunak, revealing the idea during the launch of the long-awaited NHS Workforce Plan, said it was ‘reasonable’ to expect dentists to work for a set period for the taxpayer considering their training is subsidised by £100,000s.
He revealed that only one in three graduate dentists end up working for the NHS.
But dentist representative groups slammed the idea, accusing ministers of ‘handcuffing the next generation of dentists to a sinking ship’ without addressing the issues driving them out of the NHS in the first place.
When the Prime Minister was quizzed on just what he was planning on doing to address the dental crisis gripping the nation, he said officials were contemplating what he referred to as a ‘tie-in’ period for dentistry graduates.
The move would force them to work in the NHS for a set period, something he said that most dentists avoided.
‘About two thirds of dentists after they finish their speciality training end up not doing work in the NHS’, Mr Sunak said.
‘That’s something we want to look at and it may be that the appropriate thing to do is to introduce a tie-in so that people are performing more NHS work after they qualify.
Mr Sunak said this was ‘only reasonable’ given these dentists had benefited from a ‘very significant’ taxpayer subsidy worth ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds’ to complete their training.
While he did not provide a set time period for this tie-in, the NHS Workforce Plan itself defines it as ‘years’.
The British Dental Association (BDA), which represents dentists working in the UK, slammed the entire concept, describing it as ‘deeply concerning’.
BDA chair Eddie Crouch said: ‘Ministers need to make the NHS a place young dentists would choose to work. Not handcuff the next generation to a sinking ship.’
He instead said ministers should address the issues that make doing NHS work so unattractive for dentists in the first place.
‘Seeing the detail, nothing changes our view that government is trying in vain to fill a leaky bucket,’ he said.
‘It’s an exercise in futility training more dentists who don’t want to work in the NHS.’
Rishi Sunak’s ambitious proposals are detailed in the first NHS Long-Term Workforce Plan, which is supported by £2.4billion of Government funding
NHS dentistry has been in crisis for many years, with industry leaders saying the sector has been chronically underfunded.
Dental bodies have claimed that dentists are avoiding the NHS due to the fact they are paid per job, not for the amount of work required.
This effectively meant they got the same funding for a patient needing one filling as they would for a patient needing three, despite the latter taking much longer.
NHS dentists also receive poorer pay when compared to the lucrative private sector.
Lengthy hours and high stress has caused many to flee the health service.
Half of dentists (50.3 per cent) have reduced their NHS work, according to the BDA, which warned more will follow as the sector plunges further into crisis.
NHS dental care has been in crisis for years, but the situation has rapidly deteriorated since the pandemic.
Figures suggest the number of Brits struggling to see an NHS dentist is now up to 7million, about a quarter of all adults in England. This figure is up from 4million in 2019.
A damning report released by the Health and Social Care Committee last month revealed that people across the UK have been forced to pull out their own teeth because they can’t afford private treatment.
Citing a YouGov poll of 2,104 people across the UK, which was conducted last March, the report revealed that 10 per cent of Brits have attempted ‘DIY dentistry’.
More than half (56 per cent) carried it out in the last year and 20 per cent said they did so because they could not find an NHS dentist.
The survey also found 22 per cent of people were not registered with a dentist, with almost a quarter (23 per cent) of those saying it is because they cannot afford treatment.
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