Mablethorpe residents’ five-year wait for NHS dentist continues


illustrate, Cherry Hill says she has been on a liquid diet for four months

  • author, Anne Marie Tasker
  • Role, BBC Health Reporter “Look North”

People living in the Lincolnshire seaside resort of Mablethorpe say they are increasingly frustrated by long waits for NHS dentists.

A new clinic was due to open in January, the town's first since 2019, but the wait continues.

Patients said they were told the delays were due to “red tape” and contractual issues between Winsover Dental Care and NHS Lincolnshire.

NHS Lincolnshire Integrated Care Board (ICB) said it was working with Winsover to “start services as quickly as possible”.

Cherry Hill is one of hundreds of residents trying to sign up for a new dental clinic.

She said one of her cats knocked her tooth loose in February.

“I had been living on soup, porridge and painkillers. That's when I started a liquid diet,” Ms Hill said.

As an osteoporosis patient, she is unable to leave her home without the help of a caregiver.

She managed to book an appointment with the nearest NHS dentist in Alford, but it was only last week that she could find a carer who could work an extra hour to look after her.

She added: “There are not enough nursing staff here. I've been trying to have a tooth extracted for almost four months. I had an appointment with no problem, but two days ago I had to cancel because there was no one available to look after me.”

illustrate, Mick Fairfield says bad teeth are one of his biggest pet peeves

A few streets away, Mick Fairfield answered the door, without the smile he used to show visitors.

“I broke a tooth, which was my front tooth, so it was so embarrassing. You try not to smile and try to keep your mouth shut.”

When his tooth broke, he could not find an NHS dentist in the whole of Lincolnshire who could repair it. He said he was unable to afford private treatment and so emergency NHS appointments were cancelled.

“I really thought they could fix it, but no. Because it takes days or weeks. So I'm like now.

“People who don't take care of their teeth have always been one of my biggest pet peeves, but now I've done that.”

dental desert

Mablethorpe has been a dental desert since 2019, with the last clinic offering regular appointments closing permanently.

Lincolnshire has difficulty attracting dentists. The latest NHS Dental Statistics annual report shows more dentists will leave the NHS in the county in 2022-23 than join the NHS.

The research found there are only 38 dentists per 100,000 people in Lincolnshire, the lowest ratio in the Midlands and the third highest in England.

So when Winsover Dental Care announced it would open a new NHS clinic in Mablethorpe on January 26, it was cause for celebration.

Resident Julie Clark joked: “I put the bunting up first and then the flags came out!

“Realistically, if you're private, you can get in anywhere, but there isn't any NHS. You either have to be private or you don't.”

illustrate, Julie Clark's appointment at new clinic has been delayed three times

Ms Clark said friends from the town even traveled as far as Leamington Spa, Leicester and North Yorkshire to see NHS dentists.

She was offered an appointment at the new Mablethorpe clinic but said it had been postponed three times.

She said staff told her the delay was due to contractual differences between the surgery and the NHS.

“Everyone is very frustrated and wondering if this will ever happen or if dentists will get tired and give up,” she said.

“Please, someone dot the i's and cross the t's to do it. This is ridiculous.”

illustrate, New dental clinic to be based at Marisco Medical Center in Mablethorpe

Neither Winsover Dental Care nor NHS Lincolnshire ICB, which commissions dental services in the county, told the BBC the reason for the delay.

NHS Lincolnshire ICB said: “Ensuring the future provision of NHS dental services in the Mablethorpe area is a priority for the commissioning.

“The new provider and ICB are working together to launch the service as soon as possible.

“We look forward to confirming a start date for the new service as soon as possible.”

It added that emergency dental appointments are still available at Mablethorpe “while the long-term solution of a new resident healthcare provider is implemented”.

Winsover Dental Care said it did not want to comment further.

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