Thousands seek NHS 111 dental help since practices had to close

Thousands of callers to NHS 111 in Yorkshire and the Humber required dental treatment last month, as dentists remain closed from the coronavirus lockdown.

Monday, 25th May 2020, 9:31 am
6,410 callers in April were recommended to seek help at an urgent care hub across Yorkshire and the Humber. Photo: PA Images

With routine care suspended since March 25 because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the British Dental Association said the Government’s response has left patients waiting in pain and dentists without adequate PPE.

No date has yet been given for the re-opening of dental practices across England, with only a few hundred acting as urgent care hubs in their place.

NHS England data shows 6,410 callers in April were recommended to seek help at one of these hubs by Yorkshire and the Humber 111 service.

It is also almost double the 3,450 in March, and 36% more than the same month last year.

The British Dental Association said practices providing urgent care are currently seeing less than a quarter of the patients they did before the pandemic.

BDA chairman Mick Armstrong said: “In England routine care was shut down while an urgent care network was still on the drawing board. We are now seeing the results.

“Officials have found you cannot shut down a system that treats over 30 million people a year, without putting anything adequate in its place.

“Sadly, the pace left patients in pain with nowhere to go, while dentists waited weeks on PPE deliveries in empty clinics.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has previously told MPs that reopening dentists practices has to be done in a safe way, particularly over the use of aerosols.

He said: “Dentistry by its nature requires close contact, and it can be an aerosol-generating procedure in certain circumstances, which makes it a higher risk to the dental practitioner – the dentist or nurse – and, in turn, to future patients, so we have to get this right.

“Emergency dentistry is available in dentistry hubs, which have been set up during the crisis. It is important to get this right, but it is also important to get dentistry back on its feet.”