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MP Lucy Frazer and the NHS dental crisis

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Flashback to April 2019 and MP Lucy Frazer on a visit to “Tom, Nicola, and all the team at St. Mary’s Dental Practice”. PICTURE: Lucy Frazer  

MP Lucy Frazer’s remedy for anyone seeking urgent access to NHS dental provision is to call 111.

She admits there is no quick fix to find an NHS dentist.

“Access to NHS dental provision has been a concern for some time, and many constituents have been in contact with me to share their challenges of trying to get a local dentist appointment,” she says.

Ms Frazer, explaining the issue on her Facebook page, said she has raised these concerns with NHS England on several occasions.

And earlier this summer she met with the Head of Commissioning for the East of England and other stakeholders in July.

“We discussed the ongoing impact of the pandemic on current services, the challenge of recruiting dentists to the area and specifically the problems in Ely following the reduction of NHS services at the MyDentist practice in Chequers Lane,” she says.

“In the meantime, I am told if a patient is unable to access an urgent dental appointment through a practice, they are advised to contact 111 for assistance who should be able to provide access to an appointment via another dental practice or an urgent dental care centre,” she wrote.

It’s a far cry from the expectations she raised three years ago when she, again, was inundated with complaints about the lack of NHS dentist facilities in Ely.

In April 2019, she said she followed up the issues with NHS England.

And after being photographed on a visit to meet “Tom, Nicola, and all the team at St. Mary’s Dental Practice,” she had this to say.  

“Nicola and Tom have refurbished the practice, are expanding and are welcoming new NHS patients,” said the MP.

“They will provide much needed provision to Ely, and many of the surrounding villages in Southeast Cambridgeshire.

“Having brought in dentists from across the country, their presence should result in a significant cut in waiting times. “Those looking to register should get in contact directly using 01353 662 159.”

However, that was then and today St Mary’s is not, for the moment, taking NHS patients.

A note on the St Mary’s website says: “At the moment we have a substantial waiting list for new NHS patients to join our practice.

“As soon as this waiting list has been reduced, we will be able to open our books to new adult NHS patients.

“Currently we have some available spaces for children to be registered as new NHS patients.

“In the meantime, NHS patients are being prioritised according to national guidance with the greatest priority being given to patients with urgent problems.

“NHS 111 will be able to direct NHS patients to an NHS dentist if we are unable to help.”

Labour’s Tim Andrews told Ms Frazer: “The truth is that there have been real terms fall in funding for NHS dentistry over the past 10 years.

“The contract actively discourages NHS work, and dentists have been quitting NHS contract work for private practice work only as the workload has increased but with a reduced remuneration in return.

“The perfect storm.

“As many people will have seen on the BBC News at Ten recently, thousands of people are now resorting to DIY dentistry as they cannot register for an NHS dentist and cannot afford to pay for private treatment.

“Another disaster under 12 years of Tory government.”

Constituents and others have been quick to comment on Ms. Frazer’s Facebook page.

Jason wrote: “It is a joke; I have been trying for years to see a dentist on the NHS. Why should I pay national insurance anymore?”

Mike commented: “The problem is dentistry still has a dawn of the NHS model. At the time teeth were terrible and painful.

“So, a fill or extract funding model seemed brilliant. The pain was gone, and you now had a nice set of dentures.

“Fast forward 60-70 years and it is the same funding model and pays a pittance compared to what a dentist can earn on implants, bridges, and cosmetics.

“Its hardly surprising dentists do not want to do NHS work.

Georgia wrote that “the problem is also do to with the fact that dentists are handing back their NHS contracts.

“My family and I are registered at MyDentist in Ely but only one dentist is NHS.

“When you book an appointment now you have to pay in advance when you book and you have to pay for under 18s; it’s not quite as expensive as fully private, and I don’t mind paying for me, I don’t see why I should have to pay for my children.”

Katrina wrote: “The emergency dental access is just as bad.

“My wisdom tooth has not come through properly and it is broken, it has been like this for two years.

“It’s caused the tooth next to it problems as well; I was told by the emergency dentist that they will only offer a 20 minute “get you out of pain” appointment.

“They have given me antibiotics four times and will not take it out as they do not have the time.

“My family were all due to go to a new dentist, but our initial appointment was cancelled. Then lockdown hit the following week.

“So, we were taken off their list; I’ve tried the Chequers times, but no availability.”

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