Sheffield councillors concerned patients struggling to see dentists amid Covid-19 backlog and confusion

Dentists have prioritised urgent cases since the outbreak of Covid-19 Credit: PA Images

There are concerns from councillors that some patients have not seen a dentist in over a year, as a result of the pandemic.

Dentists have prioritised urgent cases since the outbreak of Covid-19.

Councillors in Sheffield are worried patients will struggle to see a dentist amid a backlog of appointments and confusion.

Many patients believe they are registered with a dentist, in the same way as a GP surgery, but dental practices don't register patients, they just have regular ones.

Councillor Adam Hirst told a scrutiny meeting:

I'm a bit confused about this idea of regular patients and registered patients. If you go on the NHS website about dentists taking on patients, isn't that registering with one?

Councillor Adam Hirst

Lucy Davies of Healthwatch Sheffield agreed, saying: "The language is really difficult and doesn't match people's understanding - people think they are registered with a dentist. 

"That's reflected back to them when they ring a practice and the language about registering is used back to them."

Dentists have prioritised urgent cases since the Covid-19 outbreak Credit: PA Images

Emma Wilson, of Yorkshire and Humber NHS England, said it was a problem which health chiefs "grappled with".

Practices do not register patients, they have regular patients on their books and that's a really difficult message. Some of this is going to be the challenge that we have coming out of this pandemic. I struggled with it an awful lot.

Emma Wilson, of Yorkshire and Humber NHS England

She added: "Many of our dental colleagues will say that generally, regular patients come out with an appointment for a six month checkup and therefore they are regular to that practice. 

"I think this is going to be very difficult for us as we move out to this pandemic because by definition, most of us now have not been seen regularly within the last year to 18 months.

"Before this we said to practices, please make sure that once you have a patient under your care, they are clear that they're under your care. The regular patients were aware and practices were confident.

"But I do think it's a problem that we have as we come out of this pandemic and it's something that will be a case nationally."

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