We tried to find an NHS dentist in Lincolnshire – and were told to wait a year

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Several dentists in Lincolnshire are not accepting any new NHS patients amid figures showing the county is one of the worst areas for access to dental care in England. The British Medical Journal reports that dentists are handing in their NHS contracts in record numbers and so-called ‘dental deserts’ are emerging as a result – with Lincolnshire identified as one of them.

As warnings about the impact on patients mount, Lincolnshire Live contacted 12 of the county’s dentists today, May 25, to ask if they were accepting new NHS patients.

All of the practices we contacted still advertise themselves as offering NHS treatment, with six of the practices we spoke to being based in Lincoln and the other six being based in Skegness, Grantham, Boston, Louth, Sleaford and Spalding.

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Eleven of them said they were not accepting new adult NHS patients, while Spalding’s practice said it was accepting new NHS patients but there was a waiting list for one year to be accepted. Some dentists were not accepting new NHS patients or private patients, with a member of staff at a practice in Lincoln saying: ‘Our books are closed at the moment, we are at full capacity.

Some practices had exceptions in place, with one Lincoln practice saying it was accepting new patients if they were in the military and another saying it was accepting new patients 18 and younger. A practice in Skegness says it is not accepting new NHS patients, but serves as an access practice for NHS emergencies.

A report released earlier this month by the Association of Dental Groups (ADG) said the area covered by the Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) had just 38 dentists per 100,000 people. Meanwhile, the area covered by North Lincolnshire CCG had 32 dentists per 100,000 population and the area covered by North East Lincolnshire CCG had 37.

This means that Greater Lincolnshire contains three of the four worst areas in the UK for access to dentists. Most dentists once offered a mix of private and NHS dentistry, but a recent survey by the British Dental Association (BDA) of 2,200 practices found that 45% had reduced their NHS engagement since the start of the coronavirus pandemic .

The BDA says issues such as overburdened and underfunded practices are the root of the problem, warning that NHS dentistry will ‘die’ if changes are not made.

Industry-requested improvements include an increase in the number of UK training places and continued recognition of EU-trained dentists. Neil Carmichael, Chairman of the ADG, said: “Our fears of an exodus from NHS dentistry are proving to be well founded and the number of NHS dentists working in England is now at its lowest for a decade.

“We welcome the government’s commitment to reform the recruitment and registration of dentists overseas – what must follow is the reform of NHS dental contracts and investment in our future national workforce – this Only when that happens will we have a chance to tackle England’s oral health inequalities.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We have given the NHS £50million to fund up to 350,000 additional dental appointments and we are increasing the workforce so that people can get the oral care they need – in December 2021 there were 264 more dentists registered than the year before.

“We are committed to improving health outcomes across the country – we created the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities to address long-standing health disparities and will release a white paper this year to ensure that everyone has the chance to live longer and healthier lives, regardless of background.”

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