The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Dentists, the NHS and Poland

Dentists! The very word sends a shudder through the heart and teeth of most adults. It used to be about having to visit one, now it’s about not being able to visit one.

For several years the number of dentists offering NHS treatment has dwindled, but even if you have the bucks to pay for private treatment, there is a chronic shortage of them in SW Scotland. Last year, when the last NHS practice in Dumfries decided to go private, and thus dump 4,000 entitled-to-exemption-from-payments people off his books, people started queuing from 4am – over 1,000 of them that day - desperate to get onto his list and pay the £22 registration fee (not to mention annual fees for being allowed to remain on it). Rumours of an increased crime wave as people sought funding for their dentistry needs was never confirmed.

The only alternative has been to go for emergency treatment at the local hospital, but they lock the doors after admitting the first 40 or so people in – typically within 10 minutes after opening them.

This year the region managed to recruit 5 Polish dentists into the area and we were finally placed on the waiting list. Today was a family occasion as we took the kids out of school, dressed up in our finery and all went along for our very first check-up in years. The fact that we had to wait nearly half an hour past our appointment time to be seen, only added to the sense of theatre.

Overheard conversations with the receptionist were not encouraging.

“Your next check up is in January, Mr Wallace. Is that OK?”

“Well, I’m not sure. We might be away in January…”

“The next time I can fit you in would be July if you can’t make that one, Mr Wallace.”

Suitably humbled, Mr Wallace hastily agreed to rearrange his holiday plans.

And that’s the truth of it: in Dumfries & Galloway, you will organise your vacation, your vocation and your children’s schooling around the demands and expectations of the dental practice if you have been fortunate enough to get on their books.

Ms Czaja seemed a pleasant enough person and was quite gentle with the children, although Rogan has a cavity and will need a filling. She seemed a bit cold with me, took a cursory glance around my mouth and told me I was fine and wouldn’t need to be seen again for another year. Maggie needs a scale and polish.

Back out at reception to make the appointments, the earliest Maggie and Rogan can be seen is June 7th next year. Given the extreme advanced notice being given I asked if I should book next year’s check up now. I was told quite firmly that I would be sent my appointment nearer the time, which could easily be beyond 12 months due to the number of people they still have to see between now and then. It was made perfectly clear that as we were NHS and not private then we should have to expect to wait.

She’s right. In the current dentistry climate we cannot complain, we cannot choose to go anywhere else and we cannot expect to be treated as anything other than 2nd class citizens. We just have to be thankful that we now have access to a dentist at all.


Andraste said...

Now THAT'S a horror story!

Kate said...

OMG tell me about it. We used to live in Scarborough where dentists were about as commonplace as hens with teeth. Fortunately, the school dental service dealt with children, but adults were basically left to suffer if they couldn't pay, which is what we had to to do for Mr Blog's wisdom tooth extraction. Fortunately, this part of Yorkshire still has a good dental service, fingers crossed it stays that way.

Anonymous said...

If you make an annual trip to France or Belgium, you could make an appointment to see a dentist. They nearly all speak English, and the full fee is almost certainly less than what you would pay even a NHS dentist. Of course it gets tricky if they want you to come back next week.

Kim Ayres said...

Andraste - did you follow the link in the text? I didn't have to make up or exaggerate any of it.

Kate - Maybe we should ahve moved to Yorkshire (we did consider it at one point).

Daphne - I have heard about people doing dental hoilidays to some Eastern European countries, although at this rate htere could end up a shortage of dentists in Poland as they find themselves better paid in the UK

Anonymous said...

God Bless America.........(excluding our leadership). No problem finding a dentist in the States. They are more than hapy to take your money and tell you that you need a cavity filled even if you don't have any cavities.

Maybe you can start introducing the idea of dentistry to Rogan. Dr. Ayres would probably give you an appointment whenever you wanted and maye he wouldn't charge you either.

Gyrobo said...

It would be horribly distasteful to make light of a medical crisis, especially given the fundamental human needs not being met and the sheer quantity of people whose quality of life is sure to decrease.


But really, how important are teeth anyway? In this day and age?

purple_kangaroo said...

Wow, that's awful. I didn't realize dentistry was that bad in the NHS. I really hope we don't end up nationalizing health care here in the USA.

Kim Ayres said...

Gyrobo - chewing food is much more pleasurable if you have them

BStrong & Purple Kangeroo - dentistry in the UK used to be fine until the growth of the private sector and government cuts in the public sector. Eventually it reached a crunch point where the government refused to match the private prices so most dentists then opted out of the NHS, leaving the public sector woefully under-resourced.

So tell me, what happens in the US if you don't have/can't afford dental health insurance?

avocadoinparadise said...

My Goodness! That actually sounds a lot like the US. You can either get a reasonably priced crappy dentist, or an exorbinately priced good one. The choice is yours... I've been to one of each in the past year and have been putting off my checkup for a few months trying to make this choice. With no insurance because you can't buy dental insurance as an individual. Simply can't.

Kim Ayres said...

Avacado - welcome to my ramblings, and thank you for taking the time to comment!

So if you have no money, are you just supposed to pull your own teeth out?

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