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Welshpool dental crisis put to Health Minister

Created on 17/06/2022 @ 11:27


The ongoing issues about accessing dental treatment in the Welshpool area have been put to the Health Minister at the Senedd.

Montgomeryshire Senedd Member Russell George said that the problems appeared to be worsening as complaints to his office have risen from constituents unable to access dental services.

The Welsh Government has recently announced plans to improve dentistry, and the Health Minister, Eluned Morgan, said that changes were being made to ensure more access is available, with the end of check-ups every six months one of the things that will have to go to free up appointments.

But Mr George claimed that dentists have expressed their concerns with the new contract which are said to consider a risk assessment and the removal of the six-month check-ups, forcing dentists to choose between their old and new patients. 

He raised these concerns with the Health Minister, highlighting that his local constituents cannot access a local NHS dentist.

He also told the Minister that the new contract means that dentists are being paid based on out of date performance data.

“I have been raising this issue for some time, and pre-pandemic the issues within dentistry were not good enough,” said Mr George.

“When people contact an NHS dentist, they can be told they will be put onto a waiting list and could be waiting up to three years to be seen or they are offered a dentist away from the local area.

“For many, this could be up to a two-hour round trip. This is simply not acceptable.

“I am glad that the Minister agreed with me that there is a major capacity issue in people being able to access or register with an NHS dentist, but what are the Welsh Government going to do about it? 

“It's vital that the Governmecan’t my constituents can't get a NHS local dental appointment?”

The following is the response from Health Minister Eluned Morgan to Mr George’s questions.

“Thanks, Russell. I would accept that there is currently a capacity issue, and that's why I'm spending quite a lot of my time now trying to address this very issue.

“We are making steady progress with the recovery of dental services. And whilst I accept that it wasn’t fantastic before the pandemic, the pandemic has certainly made things considerably worse, and we’re still a long way from being 100% of what we were doing pre-pandemic.

“So, those are restrictions that are beyond a politician’s control. And we’ve got to understand that we have to ensure that people are safe when they are having that treatment. 

“Now, 89% of the contract value will be operating under that new dental reform principle, and what will happen as a result of that, for example in Powys, is that we will see access for around 5,000 new people to be able to come onto the NHS to be able to see an NHS dentist.

“I think one of the differences is that if you look at what the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence proposes in this space—and what we’ve all been conditioned to believe over the years is that you've got to go for a check-up every six months, but NICE is no longer saying that; it's not me—NICE is saying that, actually, it depends on how healthy your teeth are.

“So, you shouldn’t necessarily need to go for a check-up every six months. Now, it’s not me, as I say; this is clinical experts saying that, actually, we’ve spent a lot of money and a lot of time on sending people for a check-up who didn’t necessarily need it, and people who did need to get a check-up who couldn’t get a check-up at all because they couldn’t get access are left out completely. And that’s one of the reasons why we've gone for the reform of the contract as we have.”

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