What's Happening in Bolton blog

Bolton NHS dentists inaccessible to five thousand people

There are five thousand people who are not able to access an NHS dentist in Bolton, which is 3,000 more than only 18 months ago.

Health bosses scrapped a central waiting list in April and people now have to get in touch with their closest NHS dental surgery for an appointment.  However, thousands of people still don’t have an NHS dentist in Bolton and patients can wait for an appointment for three months.

Health chiefs have put £50,000 into reducing the waiting list in Bolton since January, which at the time stood at 7,000 people and with an average waiting time of eight months.

The Clinical Commissioning Group, which has taken over the local health services from NHS Bolton, has now contacted the remaining 5,000.  These people were told to get in touch with their local dentist to be added to individual lists.  A recent report carried out by the CCG put access to NHS dentistry at ‘red risk’, which means poor standard.Health chiefs say that scrapping a central waiting list is a more efficient way forward.

However, the chairman of the Local Dental Committee in Bolton, Peter Moss, said that until government policy changed there would be dental care problems in Bolton and the UK.

Mr Moss said: “The waiting list had been running for some time and clearly wasn’t working.

“The fundamental problem is the government contract that was set in 2006 and that we will have until 2015.”

Mr Moss says the contract means that there is more incentive for dentists to keep existing patients rather than accepting new ones. He added: “The situation is completely and utterly ridiculous.”

There is no longer an overall central waiting list for dentists in Bolton, so anyone trying to get an appointment should go online to NHS Choices and type in a postcode, where you will see a list of NHS dentists in Bolton.

An NHS Bolton spokesman commented: “Since clearing the list, it was felt it would be more efficient for dentists to manage their own waiting lists in future, as this would facilitate faster patient access.

“It was also felt that, by allowing patients to contact a dentist of their choice directly, it would reduce the number of people who do not attend appointments after making them.

“One of the reasons for these people not attending was the additional level of bureaucracy that the waiting list caused under the previous system.”

The spokesman said extra funding to improve access to dental services was available for this financial year.

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