Dental crisis in south of Scotland as patients wait months for NHS treatment

  • Video report by ITV News Border's Barnaby Papadopulos

Catherine used to have good teeth. Now, she can feel embarrassed to smile at people.

She last saw her NHS dentist in November last year, and her next appointment isn't until January 2024. If she went private, she says, treatment would cost around £2,000.

"I'm a person who's paid into the system all my life," she said. "It doesn't feel fair at all."

Catherine isn't alone. Just up the road in Portpatrick, Dorothy is also registered with an NHS dentist, and has been offered an appointment to repair fillings in January.

Whilst she isn't suffering significant pain now, she fears that could change over the course of five months.

There is a dental crisis in the UK. Credit: PA

"They said unless I was experiencing severe pain, where I could go to the local hospital to get seen, there was nothing they could do," she told ITV News.

For many, the situation is even worse. Yesterday around 1,000 patients were told they would be deregistered from an NHS dentist in Stranraer.

The practice at 21 St John Street wrote to patients to inform them of the plans, NHS Dumfries and Galloway said.

The practice added that all outstanding NHS appointments will be honoured and any unfinished courses of NHS treatment will be completed.

In July the UK government's health and social care committee said there needed to be 'urgent and fundamental reform' in the way NHS dentistry is organised.

The committee added that pain and distress caused by being unable to see a dentist was "totally unacceptable in the 21st century."

To one retired GP member of the Galloway Hospital Community Group, the inability of people to access affordable care is a genuine health concern.

"Infection in the gums and around the teeth can make you more liable to have cardiac problems and respiratory problems with your breathing," Angela Armstrong said.

Why is it so hard to find an NHS Dentist?

Many dental practices take both NHS and private patients. Most NHS patients have to pay for care - although they pay less than they would as a private patient.

According to the British Dental Association, the amount of funding practices receive for NHS patients is less than what care costs, and therefore they have had to reduce their NHS capacity in order to stay viable as businesses.

In July, the review body on Dentist's and Doctor's renumeration told the British parliament in a report that "contractual models everywhere across the UK are no longer capable of providing a stable and sustainable basis for the delivery of widely accessible NHS/HSC dental services."

Their report also made the case for "fundamental contract reform" - whether there is the political will to achieve that remains to be seen.

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