A dental practice received 27,000 phone calls after announcing it would be taking on new NHS patients – while more than 100 people desperate for an appointment spent hours queuing outside the building.
Faversham Smiles announced it would be admitting 60 new NHS patients on a first-come-first-served basis from Tuesday.
The dentist said it would take on the first 20 people who queued outside its building in the market town of Faversham, Kent, the first 20 patients to email after it opened at 8am, and the first 20 phone calls answered.
But by 8am, more than 100 people desperate to access the subsidised service had queued up outside.
The dental practice also received more than 700 emails and its phone system logged over 27,000 calls.
Faversham Smiles announced it would be admitting 60 new NHS patients on a first-come-first-served basis from Tuesday
By 8am, more than 100 people desperate to access the subsidised service had queued up outside the practice in Kent
Practice manager Elli Cain shared a photograph of the queue stretching all the way down the street, on Facebook shortly after 4pm on Tuesday.
She wrote: ‘It is my great pleasure to be able to inform you that we’ve had another successful intake of new NHS patients today!
‘The whole team have been working really hard to make sure that we are able to provide as much NHS dental treatment as we can, and today has really blown us away!
‘Since 8am when we opened, and our intake began, we’ve had over 100 people attend the Practice, over 700 emails, and our phone system has logged over 27,000 calls (so far)!
‘The team have been communicating with potential and existing patients all day. From the first 60 enquiries (20 in queue, 20 by phone, and 20 by email), we have managed to secure appointments for over 120 patients.
‘I appreciate that compared to the sheer volume of enquiries today, this seems like very few; I simply ask that everyone bear in mind that these appointments have been secured in the near future, without needing to wait for months.
‘We must work within our capacity as there is no sense in booking in hundreds of patients but then not being able to provide their required treatment in a reasonable timeframe.’
The practice announced it has also introduced a rolling waiting list, so it can contact people who weren’t able to secure an NHS appointment when one becomes available.
Elli added: ‘Following continuous development of our systems and protocols through auditing, peer review, and external feedback, we have also added a new level to our joining process.
‘We now have a rolling Waiting List in place so that anyone who hasn’t been able to secure an NHS appointment can leave their contact number with us and we will contact them when NHS capacity is available.
‘What this will mean is that rather than having monthly batches, we will contact the next person (or people) on the Waiting List as soon as capacity becomes available.
‘For anyone wishing to join the Waiting List, or contact the Practice, please remember that we understand how frustrating this situation is. We would love to be able to take on every patient immediately, but it simply isn’t feasible.’
Thousands of people have been left without dental care due to a national shortage of NHS dentists.
Radical plans considered by the Government could mean that British dentists are forced to work for the NHS for years after finishing their qualifications.
The plans, which were unveiled by Rishi Sunak last week, aim to help the thousands of patients needing dental work under the NHS.
Some areas of the country have been deemed ‘dental deserts’ due to having just one dentist per 13,000 people.
Mr Sunak, revealing the idea during the launch of the long-awaited NHS Workforce Plan, said it was ‘reasonable’ to expect dentists to work for a set period for the taxpayer considering their training is subsidised by £100,000s.
He revealed that only one in three graduate dentists end up working for the NHS.
According to NHS Digital data, London recorded the lowest percentage of adults who have seen and NHS dentist in two years. The North East and Yorkshire recorded the highest rate at 41.8 per cent
But dentist representative groups slammed the idea, accusing ministers of ‘handcuffing the next generation of dentists to a sinking ship’ without addressing the issues driving them out of the NHS in the first place.
When the Prime Minister was quizzed on just what he was planning on doing to address the dental crisis gripping the nation, he said officials were contemplating what he referred to as a ‘tie-in’ period for dentistry graduates.
How much does NHS dentistry cost?
There are 3 NHS charge bands. But NHS dental charges will increase by 8.5 per cent from April 24, the largest single jump since the current system of charges was introduced in 2006.
Band 1: £23.80
From April 24: £25.80
Covers an examination, diagnosis and advice. If necessary, it also includes X-rays, a scale and polish, and planning for further treatment.
Band 2: £65.20
From April 24: £70.70
Covers everything included in Band 1, plus additional treatment, such as fillings, root canal treatment and removing teeth (extractions).
Band 3: £282.80
From April 24: £306.80
Covers all treatment included in Bands 1 and 2, plus more complex procedures, such as crowns, dentures and bridges.
For comparison, check-ups can cost between £20 and £120 at private dentists, according to the consumer group Which?.
Dentures and bridges can also cost up to £2,520, it says.
The move would force them to work in the NHS for a set period, something he said that most dentists avoided.
‘About two thirds of dentists after they finish their speciality training end up not doing work in the NHS’, Mr Sunak said.
‘That’s something we want to look at and it may be that the appropriate thing to do is to introduce a tie-in so that people are performing more NHS work after they qualify.
Mr Sunak said this was ‘only reasonable’ given these dentists had benefited from a ‘very significant’ taxpayer subsidy worth ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds’ to complete their training.
While he did not provide a set time period for this tie-in, the NHS Workforce Plan itself defines it as ‘years’.
The British Dental Association (BDA), which represents dentists working in the UK, slammed the entire concept, describing it as ‘deeply concerning’.
BDA chair Eddie Crouch said: ‘Ministers need to make the NHS a place young dentists would choose to work. Not handcuff the next generation to a sinking ship.’
He instead said ministers should address the issues that make doing NHS work so unattractive for dentists in the first place.
‘Seeing the detail, nothing changes our view that government is trying in vain to fill a leaky bucket,’ he said.
‘It’s an exercise in futility training more dentists who don’t want to work in the NHS.’
NHS dentistry has been in crisis for many years, with industry leaders saying the sector has been chronically underfunded.
Dental bodies have claimed that dentists are avoiding the NHS due to the fact they are paid per job, not for the amount of work required.
This effectively meant they got the same funding for a patient needing one filling as they would for a patient needing three, despite the latter taking much longer.
NHS dentists also receive poorer pay when compared to the lucrative private sector.
Lengthy hours and high stress has caused many to flee the health service.
This chart shows the number of dentists carry out NHS treatment each year. The figure dropped sharply during the Covid pandemic but has slightly recovered to just over 24,000, according to the latest data
The ambitious proposals are detailed in the first NHS Long-Term Workforce Plan, which is published today and supported by £2.4billion of Government funding
Half of dentists (50.3 per cent) have reduced their NHS work, according to the BDA, which warned more will follow as the sector plunges further into crisis.
NHS dental care has been in crisis for years, but the situation has rapidly deteriorated since the pandemic.
Figures suggest the number of Brits struggling to see an NHS dentist is now up to 7million, about a quarter of all adults in England. This figure is up from 4million in 2019.
A damning report released by the Health and Social Care Committee last month revealed that people across the UK have been forced to pull out their own teeth because they can’t afford private treatment.
Citing a YouGov poll of 2,104 people across the UK, which was conducted last March, the report revealed that 10 per cent of Brits have attempted ‘DIY dentistry’.
More than half (56 per cent) carried it out in the last year and 20 per cent said they did so because they could not find an NHS dentist.
The survey also found 22 per cent of people were not registered with a dentist, with almost a quarter (23 per cent) of those saying it is because they cannot afford treatment.
Elli apologised to people who were unable to secure an NHS appointment.
She added: ‘The team here have been working tirelessly to speak to as many people as we can, but we are human and can only try our best, please be patient with us, we are trying to help everyone.
‘I am so proud of every member of this team today and every day, and I hope that you can appreciate their efforts as I do.
‘I send my greatest apologies to those who have not been able to secure appointments today, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has shown us such loyal support, be it through kind words to the team, patience when booking in, or through social media platforms.
‘Finally, thank you from me personally to all those in the queue this morning, I tried my best to speak to everyone from around 6.40am onwards this morning, and everyone I spoke to was wonderful, kind, and in high spirits, so thank you for making a potentially daunting morning such a delight.
‘I’m going to sign off now before I waffle too much, but please remember the waiting list is open, so please do contact us to add yourselves should you wish to and we will get in touch as soon as we can!’
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