Thousands in Norfolk struggling to get dentist appointments
- Credit: PA
Thousands of people in west Norfolk have tried and failed to get appointments with dentists, new figures have revealed - the highest proportion of unmet need in the whole country.
Analysis by the British Dental Association (BDA) shows that more than 1.4 million adults across England have tried and failed to access care.
And a further two million are estimated to have not even tried because they did not think they would get an appointment.
More than 120,000 people in the East of England had tried and failed to get appointments, the figures showed - 15,000 of them in West Norfolk.
That was the highest proportion (10.7pc) of any clinical commissioning group (CCG) area in England.
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In the Norwich CCG area, an estimated 5,238 people were unsuccessful in getting appointments, with 7,742 in south Norfolk and 8,261 in north Norfolk. Great Yarmouth and Waveney had an estimated 4,872.
West Suffolk CCG, home to health secretary Matt Hancock, is not far behind, with unmet need at 12pc of adult population.
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The area includes more than 11,000 adults who tried and failed to access care, with more than 2,500 citing costs.
The BDA says the figures reflect the perfect storm facing patients, as budget cuts, contract failure and staffing problems bite.
They say NHS dentistry is operating on a budget that has remained largely static since 2010, but with patients contributing a greater share each year through increasing NHS charges.
The BDA has called on all parties to remove barriers to care, address historic underfunding and deliver meaningful reform of the NHS contract system.
Dave Cottam, the British Dental Association's chair of general dental practice, said: "Underfunding, failed contracts and recruitment problems are creating a perfect storm for patients across the East of England.
"These access problems are no longer affecting a few 'hotspots', but are now the reality for millions across every English region.
"The public are entitled to access care, but the system is stacked against them. They face practices struggling to fill vacancies, NHS charges designed to discourage attendance, while our contracts cap patient numbers.
"Those losing out are the patients who need us most. The next government owes it to them to ensure this service has a future."
West Norfolk councillor for Snettisham Ian Devereux said that Sir Henry Bellingham had raised the issue with him prior to his resignation as MP for North West Norfolk.
He said he had researched the issue for Sir Henry and come to the conclusion that long term plans were needed tackle dentistry problems in west Norfolk such as the recruitment of dentists.
Councillor Devereux said: "Next year I have no doubt there will be a solid plan to deal with all the issues."