Dentist crisis – just 2 in 10 Richmond patients have had NHS check-up in two years

By Rory Poulter

21st Sep 2022 | Local News

Residents in Richmond are suffering an NHS dentist desert, resulting in real pain and massive bills to go private.

The crisis was revealed in new research for the Lib-Dems with the Richmond Park MP, Sarah Olney, saying the difficulty in getting access to an NHS dentist is 'shocking'.

Only 24.5% of adults in Richmond were able to secure an appointment with an NHS dentist in the past two years – down from 47.8% in the previous two.

The equivalent figure for Kingston was down from 62.8% to 33%.

The NHS recommends that under-18s see a dentist at least once a year. However, just four in ten children in Richmond and five in 10 in Kingston have done so in the past 12 months.

The figures come as distressing polling has found that one in five adults unable to see a dentist have carried out DIY dentistry in a desperate attempt to relieve their pain.

The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to set out an NHS winter rescue plan this week as soon as Parliament returns, to provide urgent help to those living in dental agony.

This would also include immediate action to reduce dangerously long ambulance waiting times and speed up access to healthcare for the almost seven million people stuck on NHS waiting lists.

Sarah Olney said: "Far too many people in Richmond Park are struggling to see an NHS dentist and get the affordable dental healthcare they need.

"We've reached a breaking point in this crisis. NHS dentist appointments are becoming harder to get than ever and some practices are shutting their doors to NHS patients all together, but the government is missing in action.

"As the cost of living catastrophe continues to hit households hard, private dentistry is not a feasible alternative for the many people living in pain.

"It's a national scandal that people in our community are desperately turning to dangerous DIY dentistry because our public health services have been run into the ground by this Conservative government.

"The Liberal Democrats are urging the Government to fund an NHS winter rescue package to improve access to NHS dental appointments, reduce ambulance waiting times and speed up treatment for those who need it."

The Twickenham MP, Munira Wilson, has warned that residents are being quoted thousands of pounds for vital dental treatment because they cannot get an NHS dentist or appointment.

Separate research by Healthwatch Richmond found that almost half of people seeking NHS care (46%) were unable to book a routine appointment.

People who could pay privately were 16 times more likely to get routine dental care than those who relied on the NHS.

Alarmingly, one in three NHS patients were unable to access even urgent or emergency care, making them twice as likely as private patients to have to go without urgent or emergency care.

Ms Wilson told MPs earlier this year: "Yes, the London borough of Richmond is a relatively affluent borough. That does not mean there isn't need or that everyone can afford to go to a private dentist.

"Our borough has the lowest funding in London – apart from the City of London – in terms of NHS dentistry, and Richmond Healthwatch's survey found that less than half of those who are seeking NHS care were able to get a routine appointment."

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