More practices will have to turn private, dentist warns

Dr Meetal Patel, Aylsham Dental Practice

Dr Meetal Patel, of Aylsham Dental Practice, said dentists might have to take on more private patients in order to survive in the wake of the pandemic. - Credit: Suppied by Dr Meetal Patel

A dentist has said that more practices in Norfolk will have to go private in order to survive.

Dr Meetal Patel, of Aylsham Dental Practice, said that in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic surgeries cannot see as many patients as before.

"The system is quite difficult to manage with Covid, so it may be a case where dentists are having to carry out private work more than NHS work because of overheads and bills," he said.

Staff at Aylsham Dental Practice treating a patient in full PPE.

Staff at Aylsham Dental Practice treating a patient in full PPE. - Credit: Aylsham Dental Practice

"You can't do the same volume of patients. You can't get patients in and out as you did before."

The practice is small, with only one dentist and one hygienist.

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"There used to be two dentists. I am looking after the lists of both now but all I do is emergency work."

On most days, the majority of appointments are for broken teeth and lost crowns. 

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"That's what my schedule is like. I can't do any routine stuff," said Dr Patel.

He said a benefit of doing more private work is "more remuneration".

"I appreciate not everybody can afford private but there is only so much one individual person can do.

"Even if restrictions are dropped elsewhere, dentists will still have to wear PPE and clean between patients," he added.

Jason Stokes is secretary of the Norfolk Local Dental Committee.

Jason Stokes is secretary of the Norfolk Local Dental Committee. - Credit: Jason Stokes

Jason Stokes, secretary of the Norfolk Local Dental Committee, said that NHS practices are receiving the normal income from the NHS if they are processing a proportion of their pre-Covid patients.

In the previous quarter, until October 1, the target was 60pc. Since then has been 65pc.

"I can sympathize not every practice is managing to do that. Thirty to 50pc of practices were not having that amount in the previous quarter," said Mr Stokes, who works as a private dentist in Norwich.

More than a third of people taking part in an MPs survey are not registered with a dentist

The NHS has been paying dentists for seeing a proportion of their pre-Covid patients. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

"For some practices, hitting that target may be a challenge, but they have been told to keep a record of why they haven't been able to hit targets and then they can discuss that with the NHS.

"During Covid, my experience is that dentists have been quite well treated by the NHS," Mr Stokes said.

In August, Mulbarton Dental Practice ended its NHS provision, claiming tough targets and bureaucracy.

But around the same time, NHS England announced new surgeries would open next year in King's Lynn, Norwich, Fakenham, Thetford and Lowestoft.

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