NHS Dentist: Councillor concerned over 'immoral' lack of dentists in Scarborough
Children are having to make 100-mile round trips to have dental appointments due to the lack of NHS dentists on the coast, a Scarborough councillor has claimed.
Cllr Tony Randerson made the claim at a meeting of North Yorkshire County Council’s Scrutiny of Health Committee today as it was revealed that Scarborough has the highest rate of tooth decay among five-year-olds in the county.
The Eastfield ward councillor said it was “immoral” that children were left to suffer from tooth decay due to the lack of dentists and urged the council to push the Government to address the issue.
In response, Simon Hearnshaw from NHS England said it was trying “really hard” to address the issue and was looking to incentivise dentists to move to the coast.
Cllr Randerson told the meeting that the last NHS dentist in Eastfield, North Yorkshire’s biggest housing estate and one of the most deprived wards in England, had left earlier this year and had not been replaced which was leading to people having to travel great distances for treatment.
He said: “A couple of days ago a gentleman from Eastfield rang me to try and get an explanation on why he was having to take a six-year-old little boy to Middlesbrough to have his teeth attended to, at a cost he has been told of anywhere between £25 to £100.
“Now, this isn’t just regrettable, It is immoral.
“In my view this is the fault of the Government, they have a responsibility to take care of not only the small few that can afford private treatment, but everybody.”
Debbie Pattinson, from NHS England’s dental commissioning team said that since the pandemic hit many dental practises were handing back their NHS contracts leading to a shortage of places.
She said: “It is unprecedented. We have not seen anything like in North Yorkshire with the contracts coming back and unfortunately practices are prioritizing private patients.”
She added that it was hoped by October there could be an out-of-hours service on Saturdays in Scarborough and that a dentist in Scarborough will provide urgent treatment for the Eastfield patients who lost their service.
A proposed procurement event to find more dentists for the East Coast was paused during the pandemic by NHS England, Mrs Pattinson said, and had not been restarted at this stage.
She added that there had also been long-term issues in recruiting dentists to come and work on the East Coast.
The committee also heard that dentists were currently having to operate at 60 per cent capacity due to Covid which was leading to long delays.
Data shown to the committee showed that in Scarborough 22.4 per cent of five-year-olds were suffering from dental decay, the highest rate of any district in the county and almost double that of neighbouring Ryedale.
Mr Hearnshaw told councillors that the 2006 NHS dental contract, which set out how services operate and sets pay for dentists based on their activity, was not fit for purpose and likened working under it to like “having both hands tied behind your back and a bag over your head”.
He said it was hoped that there was now political will to change the system but any change would take time.
The Scrutiny of Health Committee concluded that “extreme urgency” in bringing forward new legislation for dentistry was needed and asked NHS England to pass on its concerns to the Government.