Tuesday, 18 November 2014

In search of dental treatment in Tameside!

I’ve recently become aware of how difficult it is to obtain dental treatment if you’re not already registered with a dentist. My dentist struck me off his books some years ago, when I failed to attend a six-monthly appointment.

In Tameside, Greater Manchester, I have found that it can be almost impossible to obtain adequate dental treatment if you’re a NHS patient, but easy enough, if you’re prepared to pay up front.

Take as an example, my own recent experience. Last week, I started to get severe pain in my mouth and face because a tooth cavity needed a filling. For people who are registered with a dentist, getting a filling would be no problem. However, if you’re not registered with a dentist, it is necessary to ring what is called the ‘Emergency Dental Helpline’, a call-centre that tries to fix you up with an appointment with a local dentist.

On Monday, I got through to the Helpline but was told in spite of my pain, that nothing was available. I was then advised to ring the following morning at 8.00 am.  The next day, I managed to get through after a 15 minutes wait and was given an appointment at a dentist in Hyde. On arriving at the Clarendon Dental Practice, I registered and was asked for £18.50. For this I was given a temporary filling by a surly young Irishman who told me that I needed to register with a dentist to get urgent dental treatment as the filling he’d given me, wouldn’t last long. How right he was!

After being fleeced of £18.50 for very little effective treatment that still left me in pain, I made some inquiries about how to register with a dentist in Tameside. Tameside Hospital told me to contact the ‘Dental Department’ at the Ashton Primary Care Centre. When I phoned them, the young lady who took my call, told me quite emphatically, that the hospital shouldn’t have referred me to them as they only dealt with patients by referral. When I asked how one went about registering with a dentist in Tameside, I was told to ask friends and relatives or contact a dentist direct.

Having been compelled to pound the streets of Tameside in search of urgent dental treatment, I called in at two dental practices in Dukinfield, both of which, claimed to offer NHS dentistry. The first told me that they were not taking on NHS patients but they’d take me as a private patient and I was given a leaflet – “Welcome to access, a new approach to affordable dental care.” The leaflet claims: “Once you are registered as an access patient, you and every family member won’t have the hassle of searching for a dentist again.”

I encountered a similar response from the second dentist that I visited. A pleasant and attractive young woman on reception politely told me that they’d take me on as a private patient but not as an NHS patient, because “the government won’t pay us for treating NHS patients.”

What I have experienced over these past few days makes it perfectly clear to me that the state of dental services in Tameside is an utter shambles. What kind of dental service have we got when you’re compelled to knock on a dentist’s door to see if he will take you on, or you’re advised by a NHS Primary Care Centre, to ask friends and relatives if they know of a dentist who is taking people on as NHS patients? When I later  called at the NHS Ashton Primary Care Centre,  in Old Street, to inquire which dentists in Tameside were taking on NHS patients, the staff on reception abruptly told me: “We don’t do dental”, even though they have a dental department.  What is even more curious is that I was told this by people working for an organisation, that claims: “The NHS is committed to providing NHS dentistry for anyone who seeks help in accessing services.”

In her article ‘Bad teeth – the new British disease’, published in the Daily Telegraph in January 2008, Alice Thomson wrote:

“In Britain today, you can stuff yourself on deep-fried mars bars, drink 20 pints a night, inject yourself with heroin, smoke 60 cigarettes a day or decide to change sex, and the NHS has an obligation to treat you. But if you’ve got bad teeth, forget it. You may be rolling on the bathroom floor in agony with an abscess, your gums riddled with disease…but the NHS doesn’t have to help you.”

According to a survey by Mori, conducted on behalf of the Citizen Advice Bureau, seven and a half million Britons have failed to gain access to an NHS dentist in the past two-years.  Despite the NHS claim that it is committed to providing NHS dentistry for anyone seeking it, Thomson says that it is now virtually impossible for many people to find an NHS dentist, and if they do manage to squeeze on to a list, they could be charged 80% of treatment costs unless they are a child, pregnant or on benefits.

In 1990, only 6% of dentist’s income came from private patients. Today, it is around 58%. And yet, while many NHS patients struggle to find a dentist, the NHS trains most dentists at a cost of around £175, 000. A spokesman for NHS England told me that only so much government funding, was being made to available to treat NHS patients for dental treatment, and this had run out in some areas.


james kelli said...

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Amela Jones said...

Valuable information.. Is there any further reading you would recommend on this?

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