Newcastle man's mouth cancer diagnosis near miss due to NHS dentist wait list

Ray Glendenning almost missed having his tumour diagnosed due to an extensive waiting list. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

A man with an aggressive mouth tumour almost missed being diagnosed after he was faced with an 800-person-long dentist waiting list.

Ray Glendenning, from Newcastle, tried to get an appointment with an NHS dentist but was unable to due to a backlog of patients.

He was offered a private appointment for £50, and at that appointment last year, an abnormality in his teeth was discovered.

Mr Glendenning was then referred to the hospital, where they diagnosed him with an aggressive, cancerous tumour in his cheek, which then spread to his jaw.

"The surgeon said to me I had two choices: six to 12 months palliative care, or extensive surgery," he told ITV Tyne Tees.

"I worry about people who can't afford to pay - they shouldn't have to pay. In a cost of living crisis, people can't afford it."

Mr Glendenning has since had the surgery, which was successful in removing the tumour, and is now cancer-free.

Mike Barnett said he was "ashamed" of the state of dentistry in the country. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

His case comes as the government announced its NHS Dental Recovery Plan. One North East NHS dentist said the profession was "withering on the vine".

Mike Barnett, a dental practitioner in Redcar, told ITV Tyne Tees that "conditions are getting hotter and we need it sorting urgently".

He said at his practice five years ago, the wait for new NHS patients to get treated was two weeks. Now it is about 15 months.

"We are just full," he added. "Our hands are tied."

His comments come after the government announced its NHS Dental Recovery Plan - aimed at creating "millions more NHS dentistry appointments over the next year".

What does the government's plan include?

- NHS dentists will be given a 'new patient' payment of between £15 and £50, to treat new patients who have not seen an NHS dentists in two years or more.

- A 'Smile For Life' programme, aimed at informing parents and parents-to-be about advice for baby gums and milk teeth.

- Around 240 dentists will be offered one-off payments of up to £20,000 for working in under-served areas for up to three years.

- A water fluoridation programme to be expanded first in the North East, which could reduce the number of tooth extractions due to decay.

Mr Barnett said the plans had "some green shoots", particularly those aimed at preventing tooth decay in children.

However, he said that the plans were not "new", as billed by the government, and that it was "not new news, it's recycling old news".

He said fluoridating water is already happening in Newcastle, and that teams on Teesside have been working on it for years.

The process involves increasing the level of fluoride in drinking water. The chemical can help build up weakened tooth enamel and reverse early signs of tooth decay.

In a statement, the Prime Minister said: "We know that for too many people, accessing a dentist isn’t as easy as it should be. 

"That’s why we’re taking action today to boost the number of NHS dentists, help cut waiting lists and put NHS dentistry on a sustainable footing for the long-term.

"Backed by £200 million, this new recovery plan will deliver millions more NHS dental appointments and provide easier and faster access to care for people right across the country."

Have you heard our new podcast Talking Politics? Every week Tom, Robert and Anushka dig into the biggest issues dominating the political agenda…