The battle at Trafford to get a dentist appointment

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Trafford people in need of NHS dental care may continue to struggle to get appointments and longer waiting times to have their teeth repaired, according to a health boss.

Greater Manchester’s head of primary care, Ben Squires, said dental service delivery has changed because the Covid crisis “continues to be a challenge in the community”.

He described the post-pandemic dilemma for dental services in the borough and across the UK as ‘the new normal’.

He was addressing Trafford Council’s Health Review Committee while reporting on the provision of and access to NHS dentistry in the borough.

Committee chairman Councilor Michael Whetton admitted the revelations in the report left him “a bit shocked because of some of the situations we find ourselves in”.

Councilor David Acton had asked Mr Squires: “The simple question is, and I don’t think it’s answered in the documents we have, when and how are we going to get back to normal?

“Because those are the basic issues people I talk to about getting appointments like they used to be able to get from their dentists, and that doesn’t seem to be happening.”

Mr Squires responded by saying: “I can’t give you a direct answer because I don’t know.

“We are in a new normal because the delivery of dental services has changed. The workforce continues to use improved PPE, which has a particular impact on their time commitments and patient throughput.

The report states that dental services have been significantly impacted by the COVID pandemic due to the risk of cross-infection during operations in and around the mouth.

He said there had been a reduction of around 70 per cent across the board in dental service capacity [during the pandemic] but that dental services were now “working hard to return to pre-pandemic levels, reducing backlogs and waiting lists”.

In Trafford, there are 36 NHS dentists, or 10% of the borough’s total. Of Greater Manchester’s 42 urgent dental care centers, two are in Trafford.

Patients calling the GM Emergency Dental Service can see their most convenient emergency dental provider and are not restricted by Greater Manchester local authority boundaries.

“All general dental practices in the NHS continue to prioritize patients with pain, children, patients considered to be at high risk – such as those receiving cancer treatment and those who are halfway through their treatment,” the report said.

“Access continues to increase steadily but has not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels.”

Between April 2020 and March 2021, access to general NHS dental services at Trafford fell from just over 140,000 to less than 130,000 patients.

During the same period for 2021 and 2022, the figure fell from just over 120,000 to just over 100,000 and only started to rise again in February to reach around 1,110,000 in March.

Vijay Aggarwal, from the local Trafford Dental Committee, said: ‘The dental situation has changed from what it was before Covid because we have manpower issues. He said that due to the pandemic and partly due to Brexit, European dentists, dental nurses, hygienists and therapists cannot register with the government and the General Dental Council (GDC) as easily as before. .

“The GDC is also taking the time to improve its services, to give them exams and to process their registrations,” he said. “I’m not sure of the percentages, but they’re a long way from what they were before Covid.”

Mr Aggarwal also said dental practices operate as independent businesses.

“We are sensitive to the environment, like the cost of living, gas and electricity and things like that going up,” he said. “Unfortunately, NHS England is not. Because of this, it is difficult to recruit NHS dentists and nurses.

“Any new dentist or anyone looking for a job is only looking for the private sector. So many dentists are leaving the NHS, which will make it more difficult to restore pre-Covid service levels. Additionally, during the pandemic, many dental nurses, hygienists, and therapists left the profession and took jobs elsewhere.

Meanwhile, plans to consolidate three specialist community dental clinics in Tafford into a three-practice clinic at Altrincham Health and Wellbeing Hub are set to move forward.

Services provided by Bridgewater Community Health Foundation Trust treat adults and children with additional needs. They are transferred from Partington Health Centre, Conway Road Health Center in Sale and Seymour Grove Health Center in Old Trafford.

The sites will be released to support “wider service developments”. Mr Squires’ report said the Altrincham hub ‘shows the benefits of travel links through Trafford’.

“The proposed consolidation would continue to provide specialist care to Trafford patients without any reduction in capacity,” he said. “Indeed, the consolidation should improve the efficiency and overall capacity of the service.”

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