Patients forced to go private as dentists quit NHS

“Dental deserts” are emerging across England after more than 2,000 dentists quit the NHS last year, leaving millions of people struggling to get checkups or have toothaches fixed, a new report from the Association of Dental Groups (ADG) reveals.

The exodus is exacerbating a crisis that has seen patients battle to get dental treatment because so few dental surgeries will see them as NHS patients. The number of dentists providing NHS care in England fell from 23,733 at the end of 2020 to 21,544 at the end of January this year, according to the latest NHS figures, which were obtained under freedom of information laws.

Given that dentists each have a caseload of about 2,000 patients, the depletion of the workforce has left an estimated 4 million people without access to NHS care. The NHS now has the smallest number of dentists it has had for a decade, according to the ADG, which represents major chains of surgeries.

Access to NHS dental care is so limited that people in some areas are forced to wait three years for an appointment. The difficulty obtaining treatment is one of the public’s main sources of frustration with the health service, with just one in three people satisfied with dental services. Many are forced to go private, after seeking an NHS dentist in vain, in order to have problems resolved.

Full story in The Guardian, 1 May 2022

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