Health & Lifestyle

Hundreds queue from crack of dawn outside a newly-opened NHS dentist for second day running in desperate scramble to get an appointment

Desperate Brits today queued outside a newly-opened NHS dental surgery for the second day running.

In scenes illustrating the appointments crisis plaguing the country, hundreds lined up outside Saint Pauls Dental Practice in Bristol from the crack of dawn in the hope of securing a spot on their books. 

Police were forced to turn dozens away yesterday afternoon, cutting off a line that had snaked hundreds of metres. 

Aerial footage today shows the true extent of the queue, described by a local news website as being ‘reminiscent of Soviet-era Eastern Europe’.

One woman stuck in the line today with her grandson said the six-year-old has ‘never been able to see an NHS dentist’.

Meanwhile, a man in his late sixties said locals have waited ‘years’ for an NHS dentist and are ‘prepared to wait a few hours to finally get one’ — but acknowledged that the situation was ‘ridiculous’.

Nationwide, only a fifth of practices are accepting new patients, forcing Brits to fork out for private care, go without or performed dangerous DIY dentistry. 

The line of people (pictured today) first formed yesterday outside of Saint Pauls Dental Practice, in St Paul's, Bristol, which police were forced to break up

The line of people (pictured today) first formed yesterday outside of Saint Pauls Dental Practice, in St Paul’s, Bristol, which police were forced to break up

One woman stuck in the line was with her grandson said the six-year-old has 'never been able to see an NHS dentist'

One woman stuck in the line was with her grandson said the six-year-old has ‘never been able to see an NHS dentist’

Meanwhile, a man in his late sixties, said locals have waited 'years' for an NHS dentist and are 'prepared to wait a few hours to finally get one' but acknowledged that the situation was 'ridiculous'

Meanwhile, a man in his late sixties, said locals have waited ‘years’ for an NHS dentist and are ‘prepared to wait a few hours to finally get one’ but acknowledged that the situation was ‘ridiculous’

Penelope Cannell, who queued with her son and grandson, said: ‘I’ve been trying to get my grandson registered. 

‘He is now six years old and has never been able to see an NHS dentist. It has been impossible. I really hope it is worth the wait.’

She added: ‘We [were] fully expecting a queue but not quite like this.

‘We were all laughing and getting ready then saw the queue and couldn’t believe it.

‘It just shows what is going on with the NHS and the lengths people have to go to.

How much does NHS dentistry cost?

There are 3 NHS charge bands:

Band 1: £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: £70.70

Covers all treatment included in Band 1, plus additional treatment, such as fillings, root canal treatment and removing teeth (extractions).

Band 3: £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 Which?.

Dentures and bridges can also cost up to £2,520, the consumer watchdog says.

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‘Everyone has been rallying each other on. It has all gone very slowly but we got here in good time.’

Ms Cannell said the police had cut off the queue yesterday and told everyone to come back today. She added: ‘Everyone just wants to get the NHS dentist. It has taken years to get here.

‘It has been a good natured queue apart from one person trying to queue jump. There was a big argument but that was dealt with pretty quickly.

‘There has been a real community feel though, everyone has been supporting each other. We knew there was going to be a queue but we are just a bit shocked by the numbers.’ 

The newly-opened Bristol clinic has replaced a former Bupa Dental Care site, which reportedly closed in June due to staffing shortages and rising inflation.

The site was only saved when campaigners, the Dental Action Group, were given 12 months to work with commissioners, the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Integrated Care Board (ICB), to find a way to keep the service running.

The ICB confirmed last year that SGA Services Ltd would take over the practice after the Bupa site closed.

Geoff Wane, 67, also of St Pauls, said: ‘We’ve waited years for an NHS dentist so were prepared to wait a few hours to finally get one.

‘People have been beeping their horns and it has been a largely good atmosphere.

‘The situation with dentists in Bristol is ridiculous. This is needed so much for a community like St Pauls. There has been no-where else for people to go.’

Danielle Hulme, 58, of St Pauls, said: ‘It is crazy you have to go to lengths like this just to see an NHS dentist but that is the situation we are in, and I guess we are lucky we have this now.’

Prett Gill, shadow minister for primary care and public health, said: ‘These queues lays bare the state of dentistry after 14 years of the Conservatives. 99 per cent of dentists across the South West aren’t accepting any new adult patients.

‘The consequences for patients are dire.’

Yesterday, a local news website said the queue was 'reminiscent of Soviet-era Eastern Europe', where queues for basic goods like food were an infamous part of daily life

Yesterday, a local news website said the queue was ‘reminiscent of Soviet-era Eastern Europe’, where queues for basic goods like food were an infamous part of daily life

Officers yesterday implemented a cutoff point part-way through the queue, telling those behind they would need to return and try their luck again another day

Officers yesterday implemented a cutoff point part-way through the queue, telling those behind they would need to return and try their luck again another day

One woman, named Maria, told BristolLive she had been there since 8.30am this morning it hopes of securing a place

One woman, named Maria, told BristolLive she had been there since 8.30am this morning it hopes of securing a place

Yesterday, officers implemented a cutoff point part-way through the queue, telling those behind they would need to return and try their luck again another day. 

Shawn Charlwood, chair of the British Dental Association’s general dental practice committee, condemned the scenes. He said: ‘Does the future of NHS dentistry involve the police turning away desperate patients?

‘If ministers think sticking plaster polices will solve this crisis, then these scenes will be repeated.

‘Nothing short of fundamental reform can save this service and restore access to millions.’

NHS dentistry has been in crisis for years, with leaders claiming the sector has been chronically underfunded, making it financially unviable to carry out treatments.

Exacerbating the problem is that, as more dentists leave the NHS, those that remain become swamped by more and more patients.

Patients have told of queuing from 4am to gain a spot at practices that have opened up their list to NHS patients — a phenomenon that experts have warned is becoming the ‘new normal’.

Some have even resorted to DIY dentistry, using pliers to remove rotting or painful teeth at home.

Private clinics can charge up to £75 for an appointment, with fillings, cleans and X-rays carrying extra fees. 

One woman, named Maria, told BristolLive yesterday that she had been there since 8.30am in the hopes of securing a place. 

She said she had left unable to see a dentist after the previous Bupa site closed in June last year. 

The newly-opened Bristol clinic, named Saint Pauls Dental Practice, has replaced a former Bupa Dental Care site which closed last year due to staffing costs and rising inflation

The newly-opened Bristol clinic, named Saint Pauls Dental Practice, has replaced a former Bupa Dental Care site which closed last year due to staffing costs and rising inflation 

One in three also said the cost of dentistry has affected the type of care or treatment they go on to have, while a quarter fail to brush their teeth at least twice a day. The poll included 6,343 responses from 4,429 households in England and was commissioned by the Government's Office for Health Improvement and Disparities. Latest figures show only 43 per cent of over-18s were seen by a dentist in the 24 months to June this year, compared to more than half in the same period before the pandemic struck

One in three also said the cost of dentistry has affected the type of care or treatment they go on to have, while a quarter fail to brush their teeth at least twice a day. The poll included 6,343 responses from 4,429 households in England and was commissioned by the Government’s Office for Health Improvement and Disparities. Latest figures show only 43 per cent of over-18s were seen by a dentist in the 24 months to June this year, compared to more than half in the same period before the pandemic struck

Maria added that she thought it was unacceptable members of the public were having to queue in hopes of securing an NHS dental patient place, some of whom have serious health conditions. 

She said: ‘One of my neighbours — she’s facing an operation for cancer tomorrow. She’ll be somewhere in the queue. She’s also disabled and can’t stand for very long, but she’s had no choice but to stand.’

Those queuing outside the new dental clinic are not the only ones struggling to access affordable dental care in the UK.

An official survey recently revealed a quarter of adults have delayed dental care or treatment because of the cost.

One in three also said the cost of dentistry has affected the type of care or treatment they go on to have, while a quarter fail to brush their teeth at least twice a day.

Data for the South West of England, where Bristol is located, had one of the lowest rates of people who had seen an NHS dentist within the last two years, at just 39.6 per cent. 

The findings follow a damning report by the Nuffield Trust, which warned that NHS dentistry has ‘gone for good’ and must be rationed for those most in need.

Even children are struggling to the dental care they need.

Only a limited number of people are entitled to free NHS dental care. These include children, pregnant women and new mothers, and people on low incomes.

Even those who pay for NHS dentistry face substantially cheaper fees for treatment and care because it is subsidised by the Government. 


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