Scarborough NHS dentist services 'remain broken with no change in a year' as patients tell of 'detrimental' mental health impact

The lack of available NHS dentist services in Scarborough is having a "detrimental" impact on patients' mental health, an independent health watchdog has found.

By George Buksmann
Thursday, 14th July 2022, 4:28 pm

Healthwatch North Yorkshire is an independent body that gathers and champions the views of health service users to identify improvements.

Its latest report, published in May, found "many of the core issues relating to NHS dentistry remain unchanged" from last year's report, which said North Yorkshire is facing an "imminent dental disaster" and pressure is increasing on a "broken system".

It said: "A large majority of people across North Yorkshire are still unable to find a practice taking on new NHS patients, with some dental practices having up to 1,000 people on their waiting list."

The borough has faced historic NHS dental care issues, stretching back as far as 2004. (Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

One Scarborough resident told the report: "I am really starting to struggle with my mental health due to being unable to access NHS or Denplan treatment after four years of trying to get my teeth treated.

"My teeth are loose and about to fall out, I can't eat out of worry. I feel so depressed and embarrassed about my other bad teeth and gum disease getting worse.

"I am only 52 and starting to refuse photographs or smiling, I am losing confidence and getting very depressed. I don't fit the 111 category so my teeth are going to rot and fall out, I will never go out in public again."

Scarborough promised new NHS dentist

Many patients have reported the negative impact of being unable to access dental care. (Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Scarborough and Whitby MP Sir Robert Goodwill sought assurances in the House of Commons in January that measures are being taken to address shortfalls in NHS dental care on the coast.

The Under Secretary for Health and Social Care, Maria Caulfield, said that "procurement processes are in place and a new practice is set to be in place by the summer".

However, it is not yet clear how many patients will be taken on by the new practice.

A spokesperson for NHS North East and Yorkshire said: "We can confirm that a new dental practice will open in Scarborough this summer. This practice will be the first of a new style in Yorkshire and the Humber which will open seven days a week."

{my}dentist in Eastfield was forced to close due to a lack of staff.

Further details are still being finalised, it added.

Scarborough residents have routinely struggled to access NHS dental care, with a new practice promised to help address historic provision issues which have plagued the town.

In March last year, Scarborough patients were left scrambling for a place on overloaded waiting lists after a practice in Eastfield was forced to close due to a lack of dentists.

The Healthwatch report said "access to information regarding where you can register with an NHS dentist continues to be poor, and the online NHS service finder often has out-of-date information".

Patients have said that treatment is prohibitively expensive. (Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Despite claiming to have been "updated" on July 11 2022, {my}dentist on Dunslow Road in Eastfield is still listed on the NHS 'find a dentist' tool, when the practice closed in April last year.

Treatment prohibitively expensive

The borough's ongoing NHS dentists saga made national news back in 2004 when hundreds of people queued around the block to sign up to a newly opened practice in New Queen Street.

The report said many patients found that when they tried to register with an NHS dentist, they are there is no availability for NHS patients, but they could be seen as a private patient.

However, it added, some treatments can cost hundreds of pounds and many people cannot afford this option.

The financial impact also had a "detrimental effect" on people's mental health, the report said, due to the frustration and worry about having to pay for treatment.

One Scarborough patient told the report they have spent more than £1,200 for various dental procedures having been unable to see an NHS dentist since 2019.

Demand exceeds services available

The dentistry crisis predates the coronavirus pandemic, but Covid is said to have exacerbated the problems. During lockdown instances of people removing their own teeth and 'DIY dental care' made national headlines.

Readers of The Scarborough News have told of how the lack of NHS dentist practices in the region has left them unable to register, in pain, paying for expensive treatments and travelling long distances.

On Facebook, one resident said: "I've not seen a dentist since 2019. Our practice shut and nowhere else locally can take us."

Another added: "My partner and I have been trying to register for three years to be NHS patients and nowhere is taking people. We've had a baby since and we can't even get him registered anywhere."