A retired couple who’ve spent three years desperately trying to get an appointment with an NHS dentist have resorted to ‘keeping our fingers crossed that nothing will go wrong’.
Ann and Peter Flello, of Stafford, have been forced to forgo regular check-ups ever since their dental practice stopped treating NHS patients.
The unnamed practice had its only remaining practitioner offering NHS appointments move away, and has since only offered private appointments.
The Flellos are among the thousands of Brits struggling to access affordable dental care.
The scale of crisis was illustrated perfectly by hundreds of patients queuing outside a newly-opened NHS dental practice in Bristol this week. Some stood in the cold for six hours in the hope of being signed on.
Ann and Peter Flello have been forced to forgo regular dental checkups for three years, and among the thousands of regular Brits struggling to access affordable dental care
Mrs Flello, 70, told MailOnline she has only ever seen NHS dentists since she was a child.
‘We used to go every 12 months,’ she said. ‘Now we haven’t had any check-ups at all.
‘We’ve been keeping our fingers crossed that nothing will go wrong and keeping up with our oral hygiene.’
The couple have now been stuck on the practice’s NHS patient waiting list for three years, with no spaces having yet emerged.
Despite multiple promises that an NHS dentist will be arriving soon, they have never manifested, and so the couple have been stuck in limbo.
Mrs Flello, who previously worked as a checkout supervisor in a supermarket, said the practice has offered to bump them up to their private list, for a fee of £40 per month.
‘It doesn’t seem a lot but if you have to keep paying this £40 for your checkups and things like that it does work out to be quite expensive,’ she said.
Despite hoping they wouldn’t need any emergency dental work, like many others, inevitably they did.
Mr Flello had a crown on one of his teeth fall out, and so they naturally called their dentist for help.
Mrs Flello said: ‘They said “No, we can’t do it on the NHS but if you come down later, we can get you in private” as quick as you like.’
Knowing it couldn’t wait, the couple paid £120 to get the crown repaired privately.
The amount is over four times the equivalent charge of £25.80 that the NHS charges for such a procedure.
‘It had to be done so that was that,’ Ann said.
Just this week, the couple tried another dentist in Stafford after being told it was taking on NHS patients.
But their hopes were dashed when they learnt that, while the dentist was taking on NHS patients, appointments had been reserved for people receiving benefits.
Mrs Flello said she had been struck by the unfairness of the situation and urged ministers to act to help people like them.
‘You work all your life, you pay all your NHS payments, and for what?’ she said.
‘If you sit at home and you’ve never bothered to work and get all these benefits and credits you can just walk in and get what you want.
The crisis in NHS dentistry has been brewing for years, with some Brits forced to pull out their own teeth with pliers or travel abroad to see a dentist due to a lack of slots in the UK. Others have queued from 4am to gain a spot at dentistry practices that have opened up their list to NHS patients. Pictured, the line of people yesterday outside of Saint Pauls Dental Practice, in St Paul’s, Bristol, which police were forced to break up
More patients longing for an NHS dentist turned up today but were met with a sign on the door saying: ‘We are not enrolling anymore patients.’ Pictured, the sign outside St Pauls Dental Practice this morning
‘Both of us worked, brought up children, then carried on working to get where we are today with retirement, so you don’t have to rely on anybody.
‘But when you want a dentist, you can’t get one because you’re not claiming anything.’
The couple have been told to wait and ‘try again in the summer’ to get but past experience has taught them not to get their hopes up.
‘They didn’t even have a waiting list, it’s ‘first come first serve’,’ she said.
The Flellos are not alone in their dental woes. Other Brits have shared how they have taken drastic measures amid the NHS dental crisis.
Some have described living off painkillers and soup after being unable to get their crowns looked at affordably.
Brits have even flown out to war-torn Ukraine for private dental work, unable to afford the equivalent procedures in the UK.
The Government yesterday finally unveiled its long-awaited NHS dental recovery plan, described as ‘putting NHS dentistry on a sustainable footing’.
Latest national figures show only 43 per cent of over-18s were seen by a dentist in the 24 months to June this year, compared to more than half in the same period before the pandemic struck, though some regions have fared worse than others
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Under PM Rishi Sunak’s bold blueprint to fix the appointments crisis plaguing millions, dentists will be offered up to £50 to see patients who haven’t had a check-up in the last two years.
Additionally up to 240 dentists willing to relocate to ‘dental deserts’ will be paid a £20,000 ‘golden hello’.
The Government is also planning to controversially add fluoride to the drinking water of millions of Brits in a bid to passively protect their oral health.
But the overall plan — unveiled 10 months after it was promised — was slammed by dental bosses and politicians for not going far enough.
The British Dental Association said that all it amounted to was ‘rearranging the deckchairs’ and it won’t bring the desired, and much-needed, change.
Health leaders instead called for ‘radical reform’ of the dental contract, accusing Mr Sunak of U-turning on his pledge to restore the crippled industry.
The crisis has led to the rise of DIY dentistry where desperate Brits have resorted to using household implements like pliers to pull out rotting teeth.
Experts have also raised the terrifying prospect that cases of mouth cancer, which are typically spotted in their earliest, and most treatable, stages during routine dental check-ups, are going missed.