Eastbourne residents share frustrations over dental delays: 'It's a joke'

Residents in Eastbourne have come forward and shared their experiences of waiting months for a dental appointment just for it to be cancelled at the last minute.

Back in 2020 Healthwatch East Sussex (HES) said, “There is a crisis looming over the lack of public access to NHS dentistry treatment in East Sussex.”

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Dental delays in Eastbourne (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Data from NHS England and NHS Wales shows more than 2,500 dentists - up to eight per cent of the workforce - stopped treating NHS patients last year.

East Sussex CCG lost seven per cent of its NHS dentists last year, data shows.

Since then HES has carried out a public survey across East Sussex.

The report says, “Waiting times for emergency and routine dental treatments are leaving many people frustrated, with some experiencing significant negative physical and mental effects from the delays.”

HES found people are struggling to access treatment and experiencing delays and cancellations.

This has triggered Eastbourne residents to share their experiences.

Carrie-Louise Attwood said, “It's a joke! My children had an appointment in April and they called and cancelled the day before because both the dentists there have left. I’ve phoned several times as my daughter has had problems in the past and they’re still yet to make a replacement. I've tried to register with other dentists and no one is taking new patients.”

Dawn Owasil said she waited four months for an appointment only for it to be cancelled two days before she was expected to attend.

Laura Hawes said her daughter's January appointment was cancelled and rearranged for April, that was cancelled and moved to June and that was cancelled last week. She said, “I’ve just phoned up and they confirmed they have no NHS dentist available until September! It’s shocking.”

Many residents said they’re had to turn to private dental care.

Celia Izzard said, “I’ve had to go private. £500 for treatment. I’m on a pension. That’s nearly all my money I get in a month. Can’t get NHS for love or money these days.”

A lot of residents have been told the cancellations are occurring because of staff shortages. Nicola Ford said she turned up for her appointment to find the practice was shut for this reason.

One issue raised by many was that for many practices, you are taken off the patient list if you don’t attend for two years. Due to the pandemic delays and cancellations, many are finding they are being removed from their practice with nowhere to go, through no fault of their own.

Paulette Miller said her son was taken off his NHS dentist patient list due to not attending for two years. She said this was due to the pandemic and now he is on a six-month waiting list.

Megan Paul simply said, “It’s been a nightmare.”

An NHS South East spokesperson said, “Dentists have operated throughout the pandemic to treat those who needed to be seen and anybody who is in need of urgent dental treatment will get that from a local dentist.

“Practices have seen a phased return, due to the requirement to follow national infection prevention guidance, to now operate at 95 per cent of pre-pandemic levels resuming routine appointments."

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