Health

The horrifying reality of trying to get an NHS dentist: ‘Hundreds’ stuck in three-hour queue for newly-opened practice, including a disabled cancer patient ‘who had no choice’ but to stand in the cold

Hundreds of people were pictured queuing up outside a newly-opened NHS dental practice today, in scenes which illustrate the crisis facing millions of Brits desperate to get a check-up.

One person stuck in the three-hour queue in the St Paul’s neighbourhood of Bristol was a disabled cancer patient who ‘had no choice’ but to brave the cold. 

Another, an nearly 80-year-old carer who chose to sit down on the footpath while waiting said having to queue in the middle of winter to see a dentist was unacceptable.

A local newspaper compared the snaking queue as being ‘reminiscent of Soviet-era Eastern Europe’. 

Queues for basic goods and services, like food, were an infamous part of daily life in the former USSR.  

Hundreds of people were pictured queuing up outside a newly-opened NHS dental practice today in Bristol

Local media compared the snaking queue as being 'reminiscent of Soviet-era Eastern Europe

Local media compared the snaking queue as being ‘reminiscent of Soviet-era Eastern Europe

One woman, named Maria, told BristolLive she had been there since 8.30am this morning it hopes of securing a place

One woman, named Maria, told BristolLive she had been there since 8.30am this morning it hopes of securing a place

NHS dentistry has been in crisis for years, with leaders claiming the sector has been chronically underfunded, making it financially unviable to carry out treatments.

Exacerbating the problem is that, as more dentists leave the NHS, those that remain become swamped by more and more patients.

Patients have told of queuing from 4am to gain a spot at practices that have opened up their list to NHS patients — a phenomenon that experts have warned is becoming the ‘new normal’.

Some have even resorted to DIY dentistry, using pliers to remove rotting or painful teeth at home.

Private clinics can charge up to £75 for an appointment, with fillings, cleans and X-rays carrying extra fees. 

How much does NHS dentistry cost?

There are 3 NHS charge bands:

Band 1: £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: £70.70

Covers all treatment included in Band 1, plus additional treatment, such as fillings, root canal treatment and removing teeth (extractions).

Band 3: £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 Which?.

Dentures and bridges can also cost up to £2,520, the consumer watchdog says.

The newly-opened Bristol clinic, named Saint Pauls Dental Practice, has replaced a former Bupa Dental Care site. 

The old dental practice reportedly closed due to staffing shortages and rising inflation.

One woman, named Maria, told BristolLive she had been there since 8.30am this morning it hopes of securing a place. 

She said she had left unable to see a dentist after the previous Bupa site closed in June last year. 

Maria added that she thought it unacceptable members of the public were now having to queue in hopes of securing an NHS dental patient place, some of whom have serious health conditions. 

‘One of my neighbours – she’s facing an operation for cancer tomorrow. She’ll be somewhere in the queue,’ she said. 

‘She’s also disabled and can’t stand for very long, but she’s had no choice but to stand.’

Those queuing outside the new dental clinic are not the only ones struggling to access affordable dental care in the UK.

An official survey recently revealed a quarter of adults have delayed dental care or treatment because of the cost.

One in three also said the cost of dentistry has affected the type of care or treatment they go on to have, while a quarter fail to brush their teeth at least twice a day.

Data for the South West of England, the region where Bristol is located, had one of the lowest rates of people who had seen an NHS dentist within the last two years, at just 39.6 per cent. 

The findings follow a damning report by the Nuffield Trust, which warned that NHS dentistry has ‘gone for good’ and must be rationed for those most in need.

The newly-opened Bristol clinic, named Saint Pauls Dental Practice, has replaced a former Bupa Dental Care site which closed last year due to staffing costs and rising inflation

The newly-opened Bristol clinic, named Saint Pauls Dental Practice, has replaced a former Bupa Dental Care site which closed last year due to staffing costs and rising inflation 

One in three also said the cost of dentistry has affected the type of care or treatment they go on to have, while a quarter fail to brush their teeth at least twice a day. The poll included 6,343 responses from 4,429 households in England and was commissioned by the Government's Office for Health Improvement and Disparities. Latest figures show only 43 per cent of over-18s were seen by a dentist in the 24 months to June this year, compared to more than half in the same period before the pandemic struck

One in three also said the cost of dentistry has affected the type of care or treatment they go on to have, while a quarter fail to brush their teeth at least twice a day. The poll included 6,343 responses from 4,429 households in England and was commissioned by the Government’s Office for Health Improvement and Disparities. Latest figures show only 43 per cent of over-18s were seen by a dentist in the 24 months to June this year, compared to more than half in the same period before the pandemic struck

Even children are struggling to the dental care they need.

Only a limited number of people are entitled to free NHS dental care. These include children, pregnant women and new mothers, and people on low incomes.

Even those who pay for NHS dentistry face substantially cheaper fees for treatment and care because it is subsidised by the Government. 

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