A report into dental services in the borough found that during December and January, found that of 66 per cent of unregistered patients, only 22 per cent managed to register with a surgery.
The surgeries were contacted by Healthwatch Rotherham, a statutory watchdog which represents the public’s views about health services in the borough.
Of the 18 surgeries contacted by Healthwatch, 16 are not currently taking on NHS patients, and some had waiting times of up to two-and-a-half years.
A survey of 279 respondents found that the number of complaints about dentists has increased since the beginning of the pandemic, and 16 per cent of respondents had managed to get a dentists appointment within three months.
Health Watch found that of eight practices that advertised they were accepting new patients on the NHS’ ‘find a dentist’ site were, in fact, not taking on new patients when contacted on the phone.
The main reason dental practices gave for not being able to accept new patients was staff shortages, and the report found that ‘many practices were missing dentists, or did not have enough funding from the NHS to provide extra appointments’.
One survey respondent said they had lost a filling in August causing them ‘discomfort and pain’, but were advised it was ‘not serious enough to receive urgent treatment’.
The respondent said they were ‘despairing as to how I am ever going to get the tooth filled’ after ‘trying to get registered at a nearby dentist for quite a few months now with no success’.
“I went to emergency clinics three times after I called 111 but I did not receive any kind of service, and for me it has become impossible to continue with toothache all day and all night,” they added.
“I have been trying to find a dentist I can get to for over two years. I did find one over three hours away but was taken off their books after I was late due to a bus being late.”
Another respondent says a dentist surgery suggested they ‘bought a DIY filling kit’ after they suffered a broken tooth, and was told there was a two year waiting list to see a dentist.
Health Watch’s report made a number of recommendations based on their findings, including advising surgeries to update their ‘Find a Dentist’ page on a regular basis, and to highlight to patients ‘that you do not need to actually register with a dentist to obtain an appointment, and that you can attend a dentist that is outside of Rotherham’.
The report concluded: “The real issue lies with those who are not registered with a dentist in Rotherham.
“Only two dental practices in Rotherham confirmed they were accepting new patients, and one of those still had a five month waiting list.
“Other dentists were not accepting new patients at all, with some having waiting lists as long as two-and-a-half years.
“This is leaving patients in pain, frustrated and distressed.
“Many of the dentists listed have outdated and inaccurate information, which results in people spending hours ringing around trying to find a dentist with no success.
“The January 2022 stakeholder update did have some positive updates, with the £8.63 million extra funding for the North East and Yorkshire hopefully resulting in additional dentist appointments for patients.
“It is hoped that as we continue to emerge from the Covid pandemic, the pressure on services will gradually ease.
“There is no mistaking that this will be a long road for dental services across the country, with practices desperately trying to catch up on appointments and reduce waiting list times.”