Teacher faces over £1,000 private dental bill due to shocking NHS care shortages in Wales


A substitute teacher has spent more than £1,000 on dental bills after his practice announced he was stopping NHS treatment and going private. Adam Faries said he reluctantly signed up for a private treatment plan after he was unable to find another dentist near him who offered NHS treatment.

He claimed to have tried “almost every dentist within 30 miles” of Bangor, and nearly 20 different practices told him he would be put on a waiting list for at least two years before he was seen. Through his research, he discovered there was currently only one NHS dentist in the town, which he said was “incredibly unsustainable” for a town of its size.

Adam’s case was also mentioned during a recent plenary session at the Senedd, with Welsh Tory leader Andrew RT Davies warning that patients were increasingly facing ‘chronic expectations’ with some services ‘at risk of s ‘collapse”. For Adam, the situation is one that has left him frustrated and unsure if he will be able to afford the treatment he needs in the future. You can get more health news and other story updates by subscribing to our newsletters here.

Read more: The emergency levels at which Wales’ health boards are currently operating – and what they say is going wrong

“I checked into a dental practice in 2019, having searched for a new dentist for over a year after my previous practice in Bangor closed,” he explained. “They offered dental work to the NHS and it was going well, but I received an email in August 2020, when I was halfway through treatment, that the practice had decided to go private They said it was getting too expensive to maintain and they didn’t think they could provide the level of care they wanted with the money available.

‘I have been offered a limited offer of £10 per month private treatment,’ he added. “It was a pretty good offer, it got me two consultations a year, discounts on basic treatments, same-day emergency care, things like that. But even so, I was still unsure about that.”

Reluctant to commit to private treatment, Adam began researching alternative options. However, he was disappointed when he could not find any other local practices offering NHS treatment, despite those that did had huge waiting lists.

“I looked at just about every dentist within about 30 miles of Bangor,” he said. “I phoned and emailed around 15, maybe 20 different practices in Menai Bridge, Llandudno, Colwyn Bay, Llangefni, Penmaenmawr and others. This was during the pandemic so many of they weren’t taking anyone anyway, but what those who were told me was that the waiting lists would be at least two years, probably even longer.

“It was crazy, but even now, with things reopening, the waiting lists are still the same. It’s still two or three years and that’s after contacting all the dentists between here and Rhyl, and all on Anglesey too.”

Aware that the limited time supply at his current practice was running out, and with no suitable alternative, Adam apprehensively joined the private treatment plan. So far he has received work on his root canal, which he was halfway through treatment for before the practice went private, while all other items have come at full private price.

During three treatments, all of which were for fillings, he was charged over £980. Including the monthly membership fees he pays, that total approaches £1,200, which Adam says was an unsustainable amount for him to pay given the nature of his job.

“It’s a huge financial burden,” he said. “The treatment has meant I haven’t had any pain and my teeth are kept in order, but I have to pay a lot for it. I work as a substitute teacher, which is unpredictable by nature, so having large sums of money flow out of my account, before I’ve even had the treatment, it’s a bit scary, it’s money that I don’t know I have.

“For people like me, not having a suitable or available option for free NHS treatment is a huge problem because paying for what I’m doing now can’t be a long term situation. I just can’t I think I’m right in saying that in Bangor there’s only one NHS dentist at the moment That’s for a town of 10,000 when the students aren’t there and 25,000 when they’re there. It’s unsustainable. The idea of ​​the NHS is that everyone has access to free healthcare or at least cheaper healthcare, and I think everyone should have the right access to an NHS dentist It would be nice to see the Welsh government achieve this, firstly by attracting more dentists to the area to open a few more NHS practices.

During a plenary session at the Senedd on March 22, Andrew RT Davies referred to Adam’s situation to illustrate the “extremely worrying” lack of capacity within the Welsh dental services. He added that the waits had become so long that people like Adam were paying thousands to ensure their dental health, while some were going the extra mile and pulling teeth themselves in desperation.

Speaking to Prime Minister Mark Drakeford, he said: “We often talk about the consequences of parts of the NHS being closed to deal with coronavirus, which has left 20 per cent of the Welsh population on a waiting list for the NHS, and, of that 20%, one in four people wait more than a year. But none of these lists contain waiting times for dentistry. Waits have become so chronic that we see people having to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars, or take more drastic measures in their own hands to extract the teeth.

“Now, as we see dental treatment fall by 70% in the last 12 months, do you agree with me that there is a real capacity problem within Welsh dental services and the capacity of people to register with the NHS?”

But while Mr Drakeford admitted NHS dentistry was ‘undoubtedly very difficult’ at the moment, he insisted there had been a recovery, with patient volumes almost at three-quarters of levels. ‘before Covid. He also denied that the problem was due to a capacity problem, instead saying it depended on the “circumstances in which the dental treatment is carried out”.

He added: “We still have a significant number of dentists in Wales doing NHS dental treatment, but they are simply not able to deliver the treatment volumes they were in pre-COVID conditions. , because, of all the things the NHS does , the aerosol-generating procedures that dentistry relies on are the most likely to spread COVID. Therefore, the conditions continue to be that dentists must reduce the number of patients they can see in a day, they have to have longer periods between appointments in order to carry out the necessary cleaning, which leads to the very difficult circumstances to which the Member referred.

“There is a recovery in dentistry. We are back to about 70% of the volumes that were possible before Covid. There are new ways to advise people. I think there are more than 2,000 people a week who have too much telephone advice from their dental practitioner And there are plans in particular to diversify the dental workforce, which will help to mobilize the capacities that we need in the future.

“In the meantime, the position will continue to be difficult. Although there is more money in the system, the system is not able to absorb the money that the Minister of Health has put at his disposal. disposal during this calendar year. Because money isn’t the answer here. There just isn’t the time in the day or hands on deck to be able to do all that we would like to see done.

Mr Davies told the session there were now 83 fewer dentists working on Welsh health boards than there were in 2020, adding that it was ‘probably not helped’ by the new NHS dental contract from the government, which drove dentists out of service and into private practice. The British Dental Association said the new contract reduced the emphasis on regular checkups, forced dentists to choose between old and new patients and paid dentists based on outdated performance data.

Andrew RT Davies said the lack of capacity in Welsh dental services was ‘extremely concerning’

He added: “In a letter from the chairman of the local Dyfed Powys dental committee sent to the Minister of Health, the committee confirmed that not all practices in their area are able to sign the proposed contract, which would result in a 75% reduction in capacity on existing agreed levels The President said that not every member is willing to compromise on the quality of care for their patients.

“That, as a group, is extremely concerning – that NHS dental services in West Wales are at risk of collapsing as early as next month. If you accept that there are challenges on this particular issue , why are you introducing a contract that would make the situation worse and potentially create dental deserts in parts of Wales?”

Mr Drakeford said he was “puzzled” by the letter adding that from next month dentists in Wales will have a choice whether or not to take up the new contract, with no one being forced to take it. “Many, many dentists believe it is far better than the existing contract because it allows them to perform quality dentistry rather than the treadmill of dental business units that govern the existing contract and push dentists to do street checks, small procedures, rather than practicing at the peak of their professional skill,” he added.

Asked what action the Welsh Government would take to improve access to dental services across Wales, Mr Drakeford said it was planned to ‘advance the liberalization of the profession’, while 2 million additional pounds would be allocated to dentistry next year. . He added that a ‘major new dental centre’ would soon open in Bangor which would ‘provide a new level of NHS dental service to people in North West Wales’.

However, despite the Prime Minister’s promises, Adam was apprehensive about the future. “I heard the prime minister talk about a new dental academy,” he said. “But this is the first time I’ve heard of it. It might solve some of the problems, but it would be nice to have a little more detail on what it will bring. People who sign up there will be seen by trained professionals or by dentists in training?

“If you’re going into something as important as dental surgery, you ideally want to be seen by trained professionals, although of course students have to learn. I don’t know if that will solve anything for people like me. , but we’ll wait and see – something has to be done.”

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