20 miles to nearest dentist for new NHS patients

PEOPLE in the Downend area are facing a 20-mile trip to reach the nearest dentist accepting new adult NHS patients.

The NHS Find a Dentist website says the closest practice currently open to new adult patients is in Westbury in Wiltshire.

For children aged 17 and under, the nearest practice open to new NHS patients is more than nine miles away, in Bath.

Seven dentists within five miles of Downend will treat NHS patients only if they have been given a referral for specialist dental care.

A spokesperson for NHS Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Integrated Care Board, which is responsible for NHS services in the area, said: “We are aware that access to NHS dentistry in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire is challenging and we are working hard to try and improve the situation for local people.

“We continue to engage extensively with local dental clinicians, their representatives and partners, as part of a wider South West Dental Reform programme, to encourage and support them to continue to provide services for NHS patients.”

The ICB said people with an urgent dental need could call 111 to access one of 64 appointments available each week.

The profession’s official body, the British Dental Association, says the “access crisis” facing the area is typical of the situation around the country.

It blames the “long discredited” NHS dental contract first introduced in 2006, which has led to severe recruitment and retention problems.  

Parliament’s Health and Social Care Committee recommended in July last year that it should be reformed, after carrying out an inquiry.

The government said in December that it accepted the committee’s recommendations and “must do more to ensure that everyone can access an NHS dentist”.

But the BDA said it was still waiting for the government to publish its recovery plan and said it had “singularly failed to show it shares the aspirations of the Committee”.

BDA chair Eddie Crouch said: “The Government claim they want access for all but appear unwilling to make any commitments that could actually achieve that.

“We’ve heard big ambitions but no action, and our patients will continue paying the price.”