Lack of NHS dental care widens health inequalities in borough

A dentist providing treatment
A dentist providing treatment

A LACK of NHS dental care widens health inequalities in Blackburn with Darwen as no surgeries are taking on patients in the borough.

A shortage of NHS appointments has hit people on low incomes hardest, meaning they are less likely to have dental treatment than those on higher incomes, campaigners said.

A poll of people in England suggests people from social-economic group A are six times more likely to be able to pay for private dental care if they can’t find an NHS dentist to treat them, than people from group E (48 per cent and eight per cent, respectively).

Healthwatch Blackburn with Darwen Chief Officer, Sarah Johns, said: “Dentistry continues to be one of the main issues raised with us by the public.

“In the past year, 53 per cent of our feedback has been about people not being able to find an NHS dentist.

“People are telling us they have called many dentists but cannot find one taking new patients.

“We are also aware from NHS England there are no dentists taking new NHS patients in Blackburn with Darwen.

“The issue of lack of access to NHS dentists is affecting residents of our borough every day, exacerbating the fact our five-year-olds have the highest rate of decay in England.”

Healthwatch England warns health inequalities are widening as people in every part of the country are struggling to pay for dental care.

A representative poll of 2,026 adults based in England found nearly half, 49 per cent of respondents, felt NHS dental charges were unfair.

Meanwhile, 41 per cent of respondents said they found it difficult to book an NHS dental appointment, whilst one in five, 20 per cent, couldn’t access all the treatments they needed.

The findings come as data shows Blackburn with Darwen had the highest proportion of five-year-olds experiencing decay in England in 2018/19, with 51 per cent having at least one decayed, missing, or filled teeth.

However, the borough is already making steps towards better oral health, with rates down to 42 per cent following a full survey in 2021.