More urgent dental care slots could reduce A&E pressure

DENTISTS could help ease pressures on accident and emergency departments if more in-hours urgent care slots were commissioned, according to the British Dental Association.

The Chair of the BDA's General Dental Practice Committee, Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, has requested a meeting with England’s Chief Dental Officer (CDO) Sara Hurley to see if such an agreement can be reached.

Mr Overgaard-Nielsen believes this could address the CDO's concerns about the need for a long-term solution to improve access to urgent dental care, as well as reducing costly A&E and GP attendances for dental complaints.

The BDA estimates that around 135,000 dental patients attend A&E per year at an annual cost of nearly £18 million. The majority of visits (95,000) are for toothache, costing the health service £12.5 million, while a further 600,000 patients a year seek treatment from GPs. Neither are equipped to treat dental pain.

By commissioning more in-hours urgent care slots, the BDA argues this would help NHS 111 by giving a clear indication as to which dental practices have the availability and capacity to treat patients in need.

Mr Overgaard-Nielsen said: “We believe dentists could ease the burden [on NHS hospital and GP services] if more slots were commissioned for in-hours urgent care. This would ease the frustration for patients who cannot get the care they need from seeing their GP or going to the A&E.

"Ensuring that patients are treated in the right place, at the right time, by the right team is essential, both to ensure appropriate diagnosis and treatment and to help optimise the NHS' finite resources.”