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Dentistry shortage issues in Derbyshire

Derbyshire needs more dentists and other dental professionals to plug NHS service gaps and patients with good hygiene will be advised to visit less regularly, a meeting has heard.

A meeting hosted by Derbyshire County Council today (Monday, May 13) heard how there have been seven NHS dental services contracts terminated within Derbyshire since November 2022.

These are contracts for NHS dental services in Bamford, Bolsover, Erewash, Goyt Valley, Hadfield, Ripley and for Derby and Derbyshire Domiciliary care (people who need services in their own homes).

Those contracts, which have left some areas experiencing at least partial shortages in NHS dental provision, have primarily been terminated by practices due to funding issues.

In areas where this has happened, local NHS leadership looks to disperse the money for NHS dental provision in the area between other branches – if there is interest. 

This requires assessment of which areas require more of that available funding in order to provide more service to people who require them the most.

Cllr Christine Dale (Shirebrook and Pleasley division) said that some of her constituents have to get two buses in order to access NHS dental care and that not everybody can afford that.

She said: “We seem to have gone backwards in terms of progress. Dentists used to be freely available.”

Cllr Paul Moss (Ripley West and Heage division) said he now receives regular contact about the lack of NHS dental services in Ripley in particular since that contract was terminated in January last year – and is in the process of being dispersed.

He said: “Ripley now has no NHS dental practices and I think it is fair to say that there is very little NHS dental provision across Amber Valley as a whole.

“There are a number of residents who have contacted me who are very concerned about this, not necessarily for themselves, but for the children.”

A rapid oral health needs assessment is currently under way for Ripley, the meeting was told, with an aim of securing long-term NHS dental provision for the town.

Derbyshire NHS chiefs are hoping to bring dentists and other dental professionals to the county and city with shorter, more attractive one-year contacts, and through increasing payments per patient for people who have not received dental treatment for two years or more.

Clive Newman, director of primary care for the NHS Derby and Derbyshire Integrated Care Board (which oversees health and care organisations in the county and city), said key priorities were to secure more dentists and then provision for people in need, including in care homes in particular.

He said a lot of people turn up in hospital emergency departments with dental issues which could be treated elsewhere.

Mr Newman said: “We have the flexibility and we have got the cash to attract dentists back.”

NHS leadership said during the meeting that dental therapists and dental hygienists are qualified to carry out many services and treatments and that this could reduce some of the backlog and pressure on dentists to see patients who could be looked after by someone else.

For example, a dental hygienist can install fillings and remove milk teeth.

Meanwhile, children who have a good level of dental hygiene could be looked after by a therapist or hygienist following their first assessment from a dentist.

In line with this, people who have a higher standard of dental hygiene would be advised to have a 12-month or 18-month gap between check-ups, instead of the traditional six months.

 

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