Patients ‘struggling to see dentist in Sheffield’

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Patients are still struggling to see a dentist in Sheffield despite a health watchdog repeatedly telling health chiefs it’s a problem.

Healthwatch Sheffield says it’s concerned that the number of people complaining is growing.

It’s heard from 15 people recently, most of whom said they were unable to find treatment for issues including root canal work, infections and dental pain.

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One patient said: “They have waiting lists of between 10 months and two years. I’ve got two broken teeth.”

Judy Robinson, chairman of Healthwatch.Judy Robinson, chairman of Healthwatch.
Judy Robinson, chairman of Healthwatch.

Judy Robinson, chairman of Healthwatch, told a meeting: “The national guidelines say you don’t have to register with a dentist but these are not put into place locally in practice so people get very mixed messages.

“We’ve been saying this probably for a year and there is a growing number of complaints to Healthwatch, complaints are going up.

“There are good practice recommendations but the actual practice is a long way from that. The impact of delayed treatment is people taking out their own teeth.

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“The lack of clear information, and a lack of clarity about urgent dental care, is an ongoing issue that we want to draw your attention to.”

NHS England guidance states that people do not have to register with a dentist the same way they do with a GP, and Local Dental Network guidance says that people calling a dentist for treatment should be triaged over the phone.

But the majority of people Healthwatch spoke to this month said they had phoned several dentists and did not get triaged. Instead, practices were telling people they were not accepting new NHS patients, and they needed to be registered there in order to receive care.

Healthwatch says: “The experiences people are sharing with us are at odds with national guidance, suggesting that local services are not always implementing or properly explaining these policies. This leads to confusion when people are trying to access help.

“We acknowledge that we are likely only hearing from people who have struggled to find care, and that those who were successfully triaged and treated are not contacting us.”