Patient waiting for dental filling treatment in Solihull for almost 18 months as NHS dentists quit

ITV News Central's Pablo Taylor reports on the NHS dental crisis

A man has said he is having to manage the pain of a broken filling after giving up trying to get treatment from an NHS dental practice.

Michael Andrews, who is from Solihull, is still on the waiting list for NHS treatment after his filling fell out in 2020.

He has waited almost 18 months for an appointment and says he won't be forced into paying more by going private.

It comes as the British Dental Association warned today that NHS dentistry is "hanging by a thread" because of the number of staff leaving to work elsewhere.

More pressure caused by the pandemic, means more and more dentists are leaving the sector, creating unprecedented waiting times for patients.

Unions have warned NHS dentistry is "hanging by a thread" with some patients facing two-year waits for routine check-ups. Credit: PA Images

New figures show that 62 NHS dentists from Birmingham and Solihull left their posts last year.

A further 52 quit from across the Black Country and West Birmingham

In total 245 people left their positions as NHS dentists across the Midlands.

Mr Andrews says he is now reliant on paracetamol to manage the pain after failing to fix the problem himself.

"I resorted to getting like a repair kit from the local pharmacist to try repairing it myself and it's just an awkward filling to fill in.

"I couldn't find out where the filling had come out and I cleaned the tooth and the pain subsided so I thought well I'll just leave it and see what happens."

 "I do pay for my own dental treatment but I wouldn't go private it's just too expensive."

Edgbaston Dental Centre in Birmingham is one of the lucky ones practices that managed to keep all of its staff last year.

Although they have had to extend its opening hours to help clear a huge backlog of patients, and say the pressure is mounting.

"When you're asking your staff to work harder, longer hours and in circumstances that they're not used to, it becomes very difficult to continue having that conversation with your staff.

"At some point they're going to say 'I can't do this any more and I'm going to go and look for work elsewhere'"

Financial help for NHS practices was increased during the pandemic to help cater for a lack of patients.

But the government says it now expects practices to deliver 85% of their pre-pandemic activity levels - and says those that fail to reach that target face being fined.

Why is the data bad for patients?

The fewer NHS dentists there are available, the harder it is for people to get dental treatment on the NHS.

Healthwatch England said that two-year waits for routine checkups were not unheard of.

Though adults still have to pay for NHS dental treatment, the costs are much lower than the private sector.

A root canal would cost £65 on the NHS, but a private provider could charge up to £970.

Fewer NHS dentists also puts a strain on those dentists who still treat NHS patients, increasing their workload and stress levels, and reducing the amount of time they are able to spend with individual patients and on preventative care.

The British Dental Association claims 30 million appointments were lost as a direct consequence of the pandemic, and NHS data shows practices operating at around a third of pre-Covid capacity by March 2021.

The BDA’s Shawn Charlwood warned significant numbers of dentists were planning on leaving the NHS.

“NHS dentistry is hanging by a thread, because without NHS dentists, there will be no NHS dentistry,” said Mr Charlwood.

“It’s a really serious situation and every dentist that is lost or every vacancy for NHS dentistry that remains unfilled affects thousands of patients in terms of care and their ability to access care.”

An NHS spokesperson said: “The NHS has taken unprecedented action to support NHS dentists throughout the pandemic by providing additional funding for practices unable to deliver their usual levels of activity, alongside rapidly setting up 600 urgent dental centres across England so patient services could be maintained during the pandemic.

“People should continue to come forward for the dental care they need, and the care and treatment of people who need it most should be prioritised.”