Severe shortage of NHS dentists

The dentist says, 'Open Wide'. Feature on dental health. (03030924)
The dentist says, 'Open Wide'. Feature on dental health. (03030924)

it may be National Smile Month – but the lack of NHS dentists in Kirklees is nothing to grin about.

A local volunteer at a homeless drop-in has revealed a shortage of NHS treatment for those who most need it.

Carol Darbyshire, manager of Batley Drop-In for homeless and socially isolated people, recently arranged free dental health sessions for her service users.

She was devastated to find out that after the sessions, none of her visitors could enrol with a dentist for regular check-ups. Mrs Darbyshire was given a list of practices where people could register with an NHS dentist – only for her visitors to report back there were no places.

“What a let down,” she said.

Each month the NHS website lists which practices in Kirklees are taking on NHS patients, but places are often snapped up quickly.

A list from NHS Kirklees offered four practices taking on NHS patients in May. But after calling each one, the Reporter Series found three no longer had places to offer, and one had been placed on the list by mistake.

“We’ve been planning the dental event for a year,” Mrs Darbyshire added.

“Part of what we wanted to do was make sure people could get a dentist.”

Disputes between dentists and the government over workloads and pay have resulted in many dentists moving into the private sector, creating a shortage of NHS dentists across the UK in the past decade.

A spokeswoman for NHS Kirklees said: “The Kirklees dentistry vacancy list is issued at the beginning of each month, but places are filled on a ‘first come first served’ basis.

“People looking for a dentist can check the Kirklees website or call the PCT’s customer helpline on 01484 464464.”