Sunday, April 05, 2009

One in three Brits can't find an NHS dentist - and half can't afford one

Despite Government promises to improve access, research reveals that 35 per cent of adults are struggling to get the dental care they need - up from 23 per cent the year before. In some parts of the country, half the adults said they cannot see an NHS dentist - forcing them to go without treatment or to pay privately.

The credit crunch is also having an impact on the nation's dental health. The poll revealed that almost 50 per cent of the population say they are put off going to the dentist over fears of the cost. Last year the figure was one in five.

Abby Bowman from Simplyhealth, the private dental provider which carried out the survey, said: 'The NHS dental contracts introduced three years ago were supposed to give more people access to dentists, but as our research shows this is only getting worse.'

The survey of 1,700 people indicates that Plymouth is a leading NHS dentistry blackspot, with 51 per cent unable to find a dentist; followed by Southampton on 45 per cent and Manchester on 45 per cent.

The credit crunch is having the greatest effect in the capital, with 54 per cent in London saying they would be put off from visiting a dentist because of cost worries.

Dental charges have risen since the introduction of the new contract for dentists in 2006. Prior to this contract, the average cost of a basic NHS checkup was £5.54, and the price of a filling about £10. Under changes introduced in 2006, individual charges for NHS treatments were replaced with a system of bands with a maximum charge of £198. A check-up costs £15.90 and a filling £43.60. The contract was designed to improve access to the NHS, but around 500 dentists left the Health Service, claiming they were not being paid properly.

Figures released last autumn showed that the number seeing a dentist has plummeted by 1.2million in two years, so that fewer than half of all adults saw a state-funded practitioner. The situation has led to some patients being forced to pull out their own teeth because they cannot afford to go private. Others have turned up at hospital casualty departments for emergency dental work.

Even though dentists are seeing fewer patients their pay has soared - up 11 per cent since the start of their new contract to an average of more than £96,000. Yesterday the Government said dentists would receive a pay rise of 0.21 per cent - effectively a pay cut because of inflation.

Conservative health spokesman Mike Penning said: ' Perhaps this will finally persuade Labour ministers to scrap their ludicrous contract and to take real action to improve outcomes for patients.'

Susie Sanderson, chairman of the British Dental Association, said the problems facing NHS dentistry were well documented. But health minister Ann Keen said: 'These findings do not reflect reality. 'Thanks to over £2billion investment in NHS dentistry, recent official statistics show that access has actually increased and there's 655 more dentists than the year before.'


ANOTHER birth in an Australian public hospital toilet

A WOMAN gave birth to a stillborn baby in the toilets of Bankstown Hospital after being told by two doctors that she was just constipated. Health officials have confirmed that the woman, aged 21, went to the hospital unaware she was pregnant, after consulting two local general practitioners. It is the fifth serious incident to have occurred in the toilets of a NSW hospital since a miscarriage at the Royal North Shore in September 2007 prompted the State Government to open a special commission of inquiry into the health system. The Garling commission handed down its 139 recommendations just last week.

Complaining of pains in her stomach on Thursday night, the woman was taken for X-rays, a process that can be harmful for pregnant women. The results confirmed she was heavily pregnant, but the woman wandered off from the radiology section of the hospital before she was informed.

While she was in the hospital toilets, her waters broke and she gave birth to the child in a toilet bowl. It is understood the baby had a pulse and hospital staff rushed to try and resuscitate the child, but were unsuccessful.

A Sydney South West Area Health Service spokesman said the details of the events were still being investigated. "[The woman] gave birth to a baby that sadly did not survive," he said. "These are very unusual and upsetting circumstances for the patient and hospital staff. The woman is receiving ongoing support and care. "The family have requested no further details be released. This is now a matter before the coroner and it is inappropriate to comment further."

A spokesman for the Health Minister, John Della Bosca, said he was first alerted to the incident by a media report, but confirmed it would be referred to the coroner to be investigated. "[Mr Della Bosca's] very concerned about this. He has already made phone calls to make sure that woman involved gets the support she needs," the spokesman said.

The Opposition health spokeswoman, Jillian Skinner, describing the incident as "horrific" and "unbelievable", said Mr Della Bosca needed to show some leadership and extend the coroner's powers. She said the incident had echoes of the Vanessa Anderson case. Her death in November 2005 highlighted systematic failings of the health system.

"A coroner looks at death, a coroner doesn't look at the system and how it has let this mother and her child down," she said. "I expect a coronial inquiry, but we also need to know what else in this whole process went wrong …" "This is more than a death, it's about a whole systemic failure to address what went wrong, and this woman has been subjected to error after error after error." It is the fourth time a woman has lost a child in a NSW hospital toilet since September 2007.


1 comment:

NHS Plymouth said...

Plymouth is most certainly not a black spot. In fact since 2006 28,000 people have been offered an NHS Dentist. Anyone who wnats to see an NHS dentist will be offered one within approximately 12 weeks. There is emergency treatment for anybody who needs it.