More than half of dentists in Hackney are not ready to treat non-emergency NHS patients due to the backlog caused by the pandemic, according to a health watchdog.
Practices have closed during the 12-week lockdown and capacity is further reduced due to additional cleaning and health measures needed between appointments.
According to research by Healthwatch Hackney, seven surgeries were able to add new NHS patients requiring non-urgent care to their books – half the number that accepted new private patients, and these were often treated within a week.
Three practices in Hackney said they were not taking any NHS patients when contacted by the watchdog in November and December.
A Hackney resident with severe anxiety said he called 15 dentists for help but none of them were taking NHS patients.
They explained, “I have extensive dental issues and daily dental pain and would really like to see a dentist to start addressing my issues. I also suffer from severe anxiety, so I had a hard time calling them in the first place.
Healthwatch has also reported long waiting times, with some patients saying they are “asked to wait between a few months and three years to get an appointment with the NHS – while some can’t even register on a waiting list”.
Two practices said NHS patients could face a wait of around a year for non-urgent work such as a health check. Another estimated the wait to join surgery between a year and two.
Some people have found they have been removed from NHS lists during their doctor’s surgery because they have not used the service recently.
Seventy dental practices across London have applied for part of a £7.8million government cash injection to help tackle the appointment backlog.
Barts also offers dental appointments for children in need of specialist care and the Whittington in Archway has also said it will run additional dentistry sessions for children, while UCLH plans to offer more services.
Dentists are still providing 24-hour emergency care at 35 centers across London.
Patients say they have trouble seeing dentists in their local practices.
One mum told Healthwatch: “My daughter has been removed from our dentists’ list because she hasn’t used their services for the past six months and they cannot take her back because their list is full.”
Patients spoke of their experiences being offered private care instead, but said they would struggle to afford it.
A six-year-old child needed five fillings and four sealants.
Her parent told the watchdog: ‘I just can’t afford a private dentist. And he needs the treatments as soon as possible because we have been delaying them for three months now because of the coronavirus. »
The researchers contacted the 27 dental practices in the borough last November and December to find out the waiting times for emergency and non-emergency dental care. He was unable to speak to five of the surgeries.
Most practices were able to offer NHS patients on their lists urgent appointments the next day after a triage phone call.
They said they were prioritizing urgent care for their NHS and private patients.
Healthwatch said calls about dentistry have increased during the pandemic.
The organization has called for ‘better parity’ so that patients ‘will never be able to access dental care and treatment faster by paying for private care from a practice contracted to provide NHS care “.
He also wants services to be ordered locally, rather than through NHS England, and for dentists in the borough to provide information about their services and preventive dental care.