Rutland mother had to drive 100 miles to get emergency dental treatment for autistic son

A Rutland mother says she was forced to drive 100 miles to get her autistic son in severe pain treated by a dentist in London.

Speaking to ITV Central, Gigi Florentin-Lee said it was "heartbreaking" watching her six-year old son who was "howling in pain", passed from pillar to post despite needing emergency dental treatment following severe tooth pain.

Ms Florentin-Lee said the dental practice her son was registered with had recently moved and become private.

She was then only able to get an appointment at another emergency practice where her son was given a temporary filling.

She said: "Despite me explaining he had SEND [special educational needs and disabilities], they could not give him a permanent solution, or even an appointment for one - we were just told to go and find another dentist.

"Unfortunately, there is no NHS dentist in our county accepting patients and I spent over four hours trying dentists further afield.

"Many had waiting lists so long, they would not even accept him on a waiting list."

Gigi explains her son's temporary filling collapsed suddenly while he was eating berries, leaving her son "howling" in pain

The mother from Oakham explained the filling only lasted two weeks, with him "howling in pain" when it suddenly collapsed while he was eating berries.

She said: "I rang NHS 111, who could only obtain another emergency temporary appointment, which would have resulted in him not eating for over 24 hours.

"They advised me to go to A&E, who after a six-hour wait said they could not provide him with any treatment, and they would not give him any pain relief apart from paracetamol and ibuprofen.

"They said as it was not a medical issue that he was unable to eat for 24 hours, as his blood sugars would be fine, he was sent away, exhausted, in pain, and desperately hungry at 1am in the morning."

She added: "At this point, and I remember it, my little boy just started to sob, because he'd waited and he'd been in so much pain and he'd been at the hospital under the notion that somebody would help him.

"To have to take him away, tired, hungry and exhausted, with no help was heartbreaking. Your child is in pain and you just want someone to help them."

Ms Florentin-Lee then called all 50 listed NHS dental practices in the county, yet all said they were unable to take on any more patients.

She explains: "Eventually, we drove him almost 100 miles to be seen at a dentist in London.

"It was just heartbreaking and we're lucky we could do that. But just not every family is in the position to be able to drive 100 miles to get the medical attention that their children need."

"The lack of care, and the suffering that is being imposed by a 'health service' that doesn't care is utterly disgusting - leaving a young, vulnerable child to suffer whilst we were passed from pillar to post is frankly, unforgivable."

It comes as Rishi Sunak, the Tory leadership contender pledged that he would improve NHS dentistry if he becomes prime minister.

But for Gigi, more needs to be done than to ensure real action is delivered, with services available and accessible for everyone.

She said: "There is such a divide, if you can pay for it and can pay £80 or £90 for an emergency appointment just to be seen - then yes you can get access to dental care.

"But for everyone else - particularly with the cost of living crisis - who don't have hundreds of pounds available for dental treatment, you're in real trouble".

In a statement, the British Dental Association (BDA) said: "We have stressed that the next prime minister must commit to urgent reform in NHS dentistry and prioritise action on the crisis. BBC research has revealed the scale of the access crisis, with 9/10 practices reported as unable to take on new adult patients on the NHS.

"The Health and Social Care Committee was warned in May that NHS dentistry in England faced a 'slow death', with endemic recruitment and retention problems.

"Dentistry is at a tipping point. The next PM must urgently commit to fair funding and fundamental reform. After a decade of savage cuts, we estimate it would take an additional £880 million a year simply to restore funding to 2010 levels."

BDA Chair Eddie Crouch said: "Whoever takes up the reins in Downing Street must act to end a crisis affecting millions, and we need deeds not words.

"The constituents of both leadership contenders have next to no options. The same applies to families in every corner of this country.

"This can't be another exercise in rearranging the deckchairs.  Any progress will require real reform and fair funding."