So a report published today that says people have been told to wait until 2024 for dentist appointments will leave some readers wincing at the very thought.
Healthwatch England’s review of 1,375 people’s experiences highlights a number of issues in affordability and access, including: people “removed” from the practice list for not making an appointment sooner; repeated cancelled appointments; dentists saying that they have “thousands” of people on their waiting lists, with some patients claiming they are unable to even get on one; and indeed patients being asked to wait up to three years for appointments – or six weeks for emergency care.
That all means worsening pain and discomfort for patients, and in one reported instance even led to somebody needing hospital treatment after they overdosed on painkillers.
As is so often the case, people on low incomes and people from ethnic minority groups are said to be bearing the brunt of these failures (along with people in the North East, this time) and Imelda Redmond, national director of Healthwatch England, has recommended that the Government reforms dental contracts and makes sure that NHS dental services are equal and affordable for everyone.
Even if it is rare, people cannot, in 2021, be waiting three years for treatment when they are in pain. The Government must look at meaningful reforms before the situation becomes more entrenched and harmful.