Hundreds of people attend Swindon A&E because they can’t find a dentist

Heidi Alexander with dental students in Bristol. Credit: LDRS

More than 400 people went to the Great Western Hospital’s accident and emergency department last year with dental problems, it's been revealed.

Heidi Alexander, the Labour Party candidate for South Swindon, says this is due in many cases to the difficulties people have in finding an NHS dentist or getting an appointment.

According to NHS figures, 440 people went to the hospital in 2022-23 with dental issues – there were 305 patients with an abscess, caused by tooth decay, and 135 with cavities.

The Labour Party says patient survey data suggests that 4.75 million people across England were denied an appointment with an NHS dentist in the past two years.

Tooth decay is the most common reason for children aged 6-10 to be admitted to hospital.

Ms Alexander said: “Millions of people are being denied an appointment with an NHS dentist when they need it.

“In Swindon patients are being forced into A&E with tooth decay, as they have nowhere else to turn. I’m sadly not surprised by this. Over the summer I ran an online survey about dentistry in Swindon and had nearly 200 replies.

“Over half of those who responded had completely failed to get an NHS appointment in the last 6 months and one person recounted the story of her sister who had to register her two-year-old with a dentist in Birmingham as it was the closest NHS dentist she could find.“

She added: “Labour will provide 700,000 more appointments a year to those in the most urgent need, and recruit more dentists to areas with the worst shortages by offering financial incentives to dentists and reforming the dental contract.

“This will cost £111m and we will pay for this using a small amount of the money raised by abolishing the non-dom tax status.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “This government is committed to improving access to dentistry.

“We have already introduced a range of measures to improve access to NHS dentistry in England and we will soon publish a plan to boost access and improve services further. The department said the government is more than £3 billion a year to deliver NHS dentistry.

"Last year we made the most significant changes to the dentistry contract since 2006, by introducing a range of reforms to encourage more dentists to offer NHS services and make it easier to get an NHS dental appointment.” Credit: Aled Thomas, Local Democracy Reporting Service.