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Bishop’s Stortford is dental desert for new adult patients who need NHS care

Bishop’s Stortford is a dental desert for adults who need NHS treatment.

Despite MP Julie Marson’s assurance that the Government has made immediate improvements to provision, none of the town’s practices is accepting new NHS patients aged over 17 for regular care and just two are accepting children.

The Conservative used her Facebook page to tell Hertford and Stortford constituents: “Some of you have written to me about the lack of access to NHS dentists, and I have been pushing for action to improve the situation.

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“The Government has been working on a comprehensive plan to improve and reform NHS dentistry nationally. I’m pleased to say it has now been finalised, published and put into action.

“At its crux, the plan will deliver 2.5m more appointments across the country.

“It consists of payments to get more dentists into the profession, new ‘patient premiums’ to encourage dentists to take on new NHS patients, and a 40% increase in dental training places.

Hertford and Stortford MP Julie Marson
Hertford and Stortford MP Julie Marson

“Importantly, all this work begins immediately. Some £200m of Government investment is going into the plan from now, and the bonus payment scheme for dentists taking on NHS patients began on March 1.”

The Government’s strategy has been scorned by the British Dental Association (BDA) which says Britain has Victorian dentistry in the 21st century. The organisation points to evidence that the UK lags behind both Ukraine and Rwanda in terms of timely access to care – “so behind both developing countries and war zones”.

Surveys by the association show: “over eight in 10 dentists have treated patients who’ve undertaken some form of ‘DIY’ dental work since lockdown”.

It dubbed the situation “a national disgrace” with members reporting three-year-olds with dental sepsis and the return of scurvy.

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The BDA says a record number of dentists are registered to practise with the General Dental Council, but the number undertaking NHS work in England has fallen to levels not seen since 2016/17.

Chair Eddie Crouch says: “A broken contract is forcing dentists out of the NHS with every day it remains in force.

“Overseas dentists are no more likely to stick with a failed system than their UK colleagues. Ministers need to stop trying to fill a leaky bucket, and actually fix it.”

“We do not recognise any of the claims made by the Government on the ‘millions’ of new appointments created by the Recovery Plan.

“There are no measures in the plan that increase capacity in the struggling service, or that are likely to bring dentists back to the NHS.”

According to the NHS, of the practices in Bishop’s Stortford which treat NHS patients, the Riverside Dental Practice in the Causeway is only accepting new NHS patients if they are children.

It says BUPA Dental Care in Barrett Lane is not accepting any new NHS patients and notes that The Dentist in South Street has not given a recent update on its status - but the Indie was told it is not accepting new NHS applicants.

Damira Dental Studios in South Street is only accepting the registration of new children for NHS treatment while Bishop’s Stortford Orthodontic Practice in Stansted Road only has capacity for new NHS patients for specialist dental care by referral.

In Stansted, Castle Dental, Lower Street, is not accepting new NHS patients and Sawbridgeworth Dental Surgery in London Road, which treats children, adults and those entitled to free dental care, is telling new applicants that they will be placed on a waiting list.

The scarcity of NHS provision has been a hot topic on Facebook where contributors to the Bishop’s Stortford Community page report being removed from lists as NHS patients because they did not have regular check-ups because of the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath or have missed appointments.

Others have been told waiting lists are 2.5 years long and they face the choice between no treatment or paying for private care.

One former dentist in Bishop’s Stortford, Nishma Shah, commented: “Dentistry is in a terrible state and until there is a system overhaul of the contract, I’m afraid it’ll just get worse before it gets better.”

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