Concerned about the situation faced by dentists and their patients on the Isle of Wight, MP Bob Seely has written to Government.
In a letter to Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, Mr Seely set out the problems faced by Island residents and dentists. He said some Islanders were unable to get NHS dentist appointments resulting in many travelling to the mainland for treatment, with some children never having seen a dentist at all.
He said dental practices were facing problems due to a lack of trainees, funding and bureaucracy.
Mr Seely said a lack of trainees was likely due to high relocation costs, lower than average wages, and the additional GDC registration fee of £114.00 per year.
He went on to say that dental schools – the nearest being in Portsmouth – were not producing enough dentists due to a lack of both funding and work experience opportunities.
The Island’s MP said the situation had been further exacerbated by dentists retiring or leaving the Island which had left dental labs and surgeries in need of replacements, with the restrictions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic also adding to the list of problems.
He made a number of practical suggestions which included:
- The initiation of a dental training scheme on the Island
- Simplification of the process for qualifying as a training practice
- Funding to boost the salaries of interns
- Changes to contracts to encourage people to stay
- Separation of the laboratory fee and dental surgeon salary
- A scheme to recognise the highly-skilled work laboratories do to ensure a fairer price for work
- Support for laboratories
- Removal of the need for patients to see an IW NHS dentist before they can see an IW orthodontist.
He said: “Along with all other health staff on the Island, I want to thank those involved with dentistry on the Island. This past year has been challenging and I am grateful to those dentists who have spoken to me about suggesting practical ways to improve the situation.
“It is vital that Islanders have access to NHS dental care, and ideally on the Island. A lack of dental care can lead to more serious problems including cancers, and I am concerned that head and neck cancer referrals were down by around 65 per cent last year.
“There are a number of issues that need to be addressed, some which are unique to the Island.
“I have made the Health Secretary aware of the situation we are in with regard to dentistry on the Island. Mr Hancock previously recognised that the Island is unique in terms of its health geography and that healthcare costs are likely increased here because we are separated from the mainland. This is another example of that.”
Mr Seely said the results of a recent survey on Isle of Wight dental services, conducted by Healthwatch Isle of Wight, are due in April.
He said: “I would like to thank Healthwatch Isle of Wight for conducting the survey and I look forward to receiving the results”.