Health secretary Matt Hancock is being called on to put together an action plan to handle the backlog of tooth extractions in hospitals.
Coming together with disability charity Mencap, the British Dental Association (BDA) is warning that many young and vulnerable patients will see waiting times ‘lengthen significantly’.
The association understands that many services are yet to restart treatment – with capacity often halving to meet social distancing and infection control procedures.
Tooth decay is the number one reason for hospital admissions among young children. Recent analysis by the Local Government Association reveals 180 procedures took place every working day in England in 2018/19 on patients under the age of 18.
As a result, the BDA have put together an open letter to the Health Secretary, calling for an urgent action plan.
Additionally, it asks for an internal Public Health England (PHE) review into the scale of extractions under general anaesthetic. This is believed to be significantly understated in official statistics.
According to the BDA, official targets for delivering treatment vary by area from four to 18 weeks. This is due to the different approaches to commissioning services.
‘The hundreds of extractions that took place every day in our hospitals ended with the start of lockdown. But demand hasn’t gone anywhere,’ said Charlotte Waite, chair of the BDA’s England community dental services committee.
‘Increasingly stretched services are now struggling to meet the backlog, while tens of thousands of vulnerable adults and young children wait in pain.
‘The government has a responsibility to act for patients. Many of these were already facing a year of toothache and the impact this has on their general wellbeing.
‘We need a plan, and full disclosure on the true scale of a problem that is already a national scandal.’
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