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Access to NHS dentists in Wales still woefully inadequate – Kirsty Williams

March 27, 2012 12:47 PM

Original research by the Welsh Liberal Democrats has revealed that NHS dentistry is still far from being a universal service in Wales. A survey of all dental practices in Wales showed that only 37% are currently accepting new NHS patients.

The Welsh Liberal Democrat survey also revealed that:

Despite the new dental contract that was established in 2006, there are still considerable problems with dentistry in Wales. The findings of the survey confirm that dentistry and oral health has been overlooked by the Welsh Government in recent years.

Kirsty Williams, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said:

"I believe that dentistry in Wales has been overlooked by the Welsh Government in recent years and the findings of our survey confirm that there are still considerable problems facing the service.

"One of the major issues we found was that dentistry was still far from a universal service. I found it astonishing that only 37% of dentists are accepting new NHS patients. In 21st century Wales, the opening of a new NHS dental practice shouldn't make headlines news, but sadly this is the reality of what we face.

"Our survey found that is it far easier for patients to access private dentists. 70% of dentists in Wales are currently accepting new patients - almost double the number of practices accepting new NHS patients. This is a shocking state of affairs and shows that poorer patients are being disadvantaged. Although the new dental contract was supposed to improve access to NHS dentists for all, the worrying truth is that NHS dentistry in Wales is still far from a universal public service.

"While over a third of practices were accepting NHS patients, this does not mean that patients will be able to see a dentist easily. In the practices with waiting lists, an alarming 65% of those waiting lists were for more than two months. It is simply unacceptable that people have to wait this long so see an NHS dentist.

"Another big concern raised by dentists was the number of patients missing appointments. While missing an appointment may not be a big consideration for an individual patient, overall this has a huge effect on the ability of dentists to treat patients and subsequently on other people's ability to see a dentist. In one case, a dental practice was losing upwards of 2,000 of surgery time per year. Dentists were quite frank with their suggestions on how to deal with missed appointments and I am calling for the Welsh Government to address these issues with the dental practices.

"The huge response we received to our survey highlights a number of issues facing dental health practitioners and dentists in Wales and shows their willingness to engage with policy makers to improve the provision of dentistry. I want the Welsh Labour Government to listen to what dentists are saying all across Wales so that we can have a service that benefits all parts of society, all across Wales."