Bid to tackle lack of NHS dentist places in Cornwall

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image captionThe NHS said it would focus its efforts on where patient need was greatest

A scheme aimed at improving dental health access in Cornwall is launched after a health watchdog survey found many people lacked regular NHS care.

Nearly half of those who responded to the Healthwatch Cornwall survey said they were not NHS-registered.

Many said a lack of places or long journeys put them off.

NHS England said the a pilot scheme would see longer opening hours at a NHS practice and more information available from GPs.

The survey concentrated on care along the border with Devon, speaking to patients in Bude, Callington, Launceston, Liskeard and Torpoint.

The watchdog said about 44% of the 664 people who responded said they were not NHS-registered, and were also put off by long waiting times.

'Radical approach'

The survey also showed people in Torpoint found it easiest to register with an NHS dentist, that it was hardest for patients in Launceston and there was a serious gap in service in Bude and Liskeard.

Chris Hancock, 62, from St Austell, said it had been very difficult to get an NHS dentist and it had got to the point where he would rather lose teeth rather than take a "monumental trek" to Liskeard for regular ongoing preventative treatment.

He said: "I've now taken the more radical approach where I get emergency treatment at an out-of-hours centre, where it's more a case of 'take it out'."

NHS England (Devon, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly) said it was extending opening hours at a practice in Liskeard and sending information on how to access NHS dentists to all of the county's GP practices.

It said: "National figures show that 93% of people in England who tried to get an NHS dental appointment in the past two years were successful."

It added: "Patients who wish to find out about the availability of NHS dentistry in Devon and Cornwall can call the dental helpline."

Data obtained from the helpline was due to be used to see where the need was and practices with space would be targeted to see how they could increase the amount of NHS work they did, it said.

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