Somerset foster carer drives hours for children's dental appointments amid growing NHS wait lists

A foster carer from Somerset says she's been left with no other option but to travel as far as Bristol for dental care after she struggled to find a local practice that would take the children on.

In Somerset, nearly all practices aren’t taking on new NHS patients, with some having frozen their waiting lists to over four years.

Emma Lloyd, who lives near Wellington, says she has no choice but to travel up to 40 miles for dental care.

She told ITV News West Country: “I've got a child that I take to Bristol for his dentistry, which is not acceptable because it means taking him out of school for a whole day.

“I've got another child that I used to have to take to Devon. That was the nearest place I could find. Another one - Bridgwater.

“The last girl I had with me, I had to leave registered with her Williton practice. So we were having to drive over an hour up to Williton just for a dental checkup because there's just nothing locally for us.”

In Taunton, local politicians are hoping to put pressure on the Government to help fix the problem, which they say is putting additional strain on hospitals in the region.

Gideon Amos, the parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Democrats in Taunton, said: “It's a key part of health. People now are presenting at A&E because they haven't had serious mouth issues detected at the dentist.

“People are resorting to DIY dentistry, which none of us want to do. or want to consider doing - incredibly painful.

“People are going to extreme measures now and we have to look for a new solution for NHS dentistry and the government just isn't delivering."

With well over 40 dentists in Somerset without space, some families are considering private dental care.

Mum Debbie Petty from Chard is looking at paying for her two daughters aged nine and twelve to see a dentist, despite struggling with the cost of living.

Debbie Petty with daughter Robyn (9) Credit: Debbie Petty

She told ITV News West Country: “I work part-time, my husband works full-time but doesn't earn a huge amount of money.

“So, you know, with the state of the economy at the moment, finances are still really difficult at the end of each month.

“But dental care is extremely important I think, particularly as you're growing up, it's extremely important for children to have access to that dental care.

"We're looking at what we can sacrifice in order to make that happen for them."

In response, the government says it’s investing more than £3 billion a year in dentistry, but recognises that there is more work to be done.

A Department of Health and Social Care Spokesperson said: “We are working to improve access to NHS dental care by investing more than £3 billion a year in dentistry for all NHS patients but we know there is more to do.

“We have enabled NHS dental practices to deliver an extra 10% of NHS care on top of their contracts to improve patient access and recently completed work to remove barriers and support dental team members such as therapists and hygienists to work to their full skill set in the NHS.

“The number of dentists practising in the NHS increased by over 500 last year and we recently implemented reforms to provide fairer pay for practices to take on high-needs patients also.”