Hard-up Brits are flocking to overcrowded A&E departments… with toothache. And one in ten calls to the NHS 111 helpline are from people needing dental treatment, a senior nurse said.
Sandra Maxwell, of NHS Direct, told how many are putting off going to a dentist because of the high cost, adding “Gas bills take priority.” Ms Maxwell was speaking at a meeting about pressures facing emergency departments this winter, organised by Labour in Parliament.
Michelle Goodman, a nurse with the NHS 111 service, claimed call handlers were referring patients with severe toothache to A&E. She said:
“They are actually going to be advised to go to A&E, which is not going to be the right place to go. And you think, ‘you don’t need to send them there.’
“It is totally inappropriate. We need to be looking at providing services for people who have some sort of dental crisis out of hours.”
Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham described 2013 as “the worst year in a decade in A&E” and warned of a rough winter ahead. He said all patients should be guaranteed a GP appointment within 48 hours – a target which was scrapped by the Coalition.
His Labour colleague, Andrew Gwynne claimed increasing numbers of his constituents were worried about dental services.
This article appeared in The Sun on Wednesday 11 December 2013, following Labour’s A&E Summit in Parliament.
By Emily Ashton, Whitehall Correspondent, The Sun