The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has “only worsened the situation” of NHS dental access in rural counties including Lincolnshire as the profession reaches “breaking point”, according to the Vice Chair of the Lincolnshire Local Dental Committee.
A recent survey from Healthwatch Lincolnshire, which gained 236 responses, found that 45% had no access to an NHS dentist while one person said they were being forced to ‘self medicate’.
To find out the exact extent of the issue in Lincoln, we contacted 10 local dental practices to find out whether or not they are taking on NHS patieny, and here’s what we found out.
- West Parade Dental Care, Newland Dental Care, Bupa Dental Care (both The Strait and Doddington Road), Lincoln Dental Care, Genesis Dental Care, and Brant Road Dental Practice ARE NOT taking on new NHS patients
- Guildhall Dental Care are only taking on new child patients on the NHS, but not adults
- Carholme Dental Practice is accepting children on the NHS, but only private and practice plan for adults
- When Cathedral View Dental Practice on Burton Road was asked if it was taking on new NHS patients, it said it was unable to comment
Appleby & Associates in North Hykeham were also contacted, who said it was mainly private but did usually take children on the NHS, but currently had no spaces for this.
In addition, Treeline on Lincoln High Street, which is run by JDSP Dental Limited, is registering military patients on the NHS, but has no other capacity to take on NHS patients. However, it can take patients on privately.
The practice also says within its automated message before you get through that it is in the process of contacting former patients from Powell and Associates, which closed its doors after 140 years last summer.
Each practice has a UDA quota, which is the unit of currency for measuring the type of clinical activity expected from a dentist within a 12-month contract for a certified financial value. The value of this varies from practice to practice, but it is understood that Lincolnshire has historically low values and could be another reason why recruitment is getting even more difficult.
Responding to the issue of dental access in the county Andy Fenn, Vice Chair of the Lincolnshire Local Dental Committee told The Lincolnite: “NHS dental access was an issue for rural counties including Lincolnshire before the pandemic and the impact of this only worsened the situation, such that urban areas are seeing the same issues once the peculiarity of rural areas.
“The reasons are multifactorial, not least the crisis in recruitment, the like of which we have not seen before. The loss of EU graduates, accelerated by Brexit and the stalling of the ORE process (although this has now been resurrected) severely impacted this together with a paradigm shift where new graduates were reported to be far less keen to undertake NHS work instead, in many cases opting for higher training, working in private practices or hospital settings.
“Additionally the desire to work less hours, with more part time work being sought has become the norm. Added to this we have seen dentists from the baby boomers group retiring, taking with them a previous commitment to the NHS, typically founded on the previous ‘item of service’ contract.
“The pandemic restrictions have typically resulted in backlogs of work, along with staff burnout, staff shortages and low morale with increasing mental health issues being seen amongst team members. On top of this the NHS UDA system which was deemed to be problematic from its inception in 2006 has failed to deliver for patients and the dental teams.
“A thorough review carried out by Prof Jimmy Steele in 2008-2009 highlighted the need for reforms and identified the model familiar to graduates, which would facilitate the delivery of dentistry in line with how undergraduates had been taught at dental school.
“Unfortunately, even with a series of pilots and prototypes since that time, the failed NHS contract is still being used to provide dental care for patients despite the acknowledged shortcomings on both sides of the House and in the Lords. Contract reform has been promised since the time of the coalition government but here we are in 2022, without any real plans of substance. The profession is at breaking point with the NHS contract.”