Heswall dentist says inadequate funding means NHS patients are being turned away

By Ed Barnes

22nd Sep 2022 | Local News

Dr Tam Haque - Picture: Natalie Mearns
Dr Tam Haque - Picture: Natalie Mearns

A Wirral dentist who works in Heswall and Moreton says dental practices are struggling to foot the bill taking NHS patients on because of low funding

Dr Tam Haque has worked as a dentist for 25 years has two practices, one fully private and another that takes some NHS patients.

Over the last five years, he said costs had rise by between 30% and 50% putting more pressure on practices - and dentists are having to turn away NHS patients in order to meet targets and keep running as a business. 

He said: "It is an impossible situation. If you are having to turn away children and people in need, it is very frustrating and upsetting."

The comments were made in response to a woman travelling to Turkey for dental care. The woman who flew out, Sally Murphy, claimed it was cheaper to receive an operation there than to go private in the UK and face costs here of more than £19,000.

Dr Haque said under current NHS contracts, dental practices are paid the same for one filling on NHS patients as doing 10. He said that it was unlikely his practice could continue to provide care for NHS patients in the next six months.

He said: "The funding is so low it is almost impossible to run a business. Even if we wanted to, there seems to be no capacity to increase our NHS work load."

"The more you work to help people who need lots of treatment, you'll likely be penalised because you will miss your targets and get your funding cut."

A British Dental Association spokesperson (BDA) said: "It's shameful – and a national disgrace – that the provision of NHS dentistry has become such a postcode lottery, that some people are being forced to go abroad to access affordable treatment they desperately need, or even resorting to DIY dentistry.  

"This is the reality for patients who are at the sharp end of a decade of savage cuts to the dental budget. Successive governments have failed to tackle the NHS dental crisis – only funding care for around half the population. The BDA estimates it would take an extra £880m a year simply to restore resources to 2010 levels."

A spokesperson for the NHS in the North West said: "The COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a disproportionate impact on the North West region, has inevitably led to a disruption in routine dental care with NHS dentists having to focus on providing care for those with an urgent dental need.  

"It is important to note that anyone who is in dental pain or in urgent need of support, help or advice, can telephone their own dental practice in the usual way. If they don't have a usual dentist and have an urgent need they can contact the dental helpline on 0161 476 9651.

"The NHS recently announced the first reforms to dentistry services since 2006 which will support practices to improve access including by giving high performing practices the opportunity to increase their activity and treat more patients – discussions around further changes that benefit patients and staff are ongoing."

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