Pembrokeshire to see gradual increase in routine dental services
PLANS for a gradual increase in dental services could mean Pembrokeshire residents will soon be able to access more routine appointments.
County dentists have been busy trying to catch up with the delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic, when all routine dental services were cut short.
With the number of emergencies treated now returning to pre-pandemic levels, firms hope to be able to bridge the backlog.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan has paved the way for a gradual increase in routine dental services in Wales and her commitment to broader reform of NHS dentistry.
But she added that changes to NHS dentistry contracts will be postponed until next year to allow the service to recover from the impact of the pandemic.
“The way people accessed dental services during the pandemic changed, but NHS dental services continued to be there for those who need them most,” she said.
“Dentistry has been one of the most difficult services to provide during the pandemic, due to aerosol-generating procedures and the need for dentists to be so close to the patient.
“But the service responded to the challenge of providing for those who need it most, and I want to thank everyone in the service who worked tirelessly to make it happen.
“Dental offices will need to continue to follow strict infection control measures to help prevent the spread of COVID.
“As the risks reduce, they will be able to increase the treatments and routine assessments they provide.”
Since the start of the pandemic, dentists have seen more than 1.3 million people in practices across Wales and have provided 340,000 consultations remotely, via phone or video services.
Pain relievers and antibiotics continued to be prescribed as needed.
The number of urgent cases seen by dentists is starting to return to pre-pandemic levels, allowing practices to deal with treatment delays and offer routine assessment where capacity allows.
But the health minister said the return of other routine dental services will be gradual, with teams focusing on the most urgent jobs and people whose treatment has been delayed.
In 2012, 37% of practices in Wales were accepting new NHS patients – but in 2019, less than 16% were able to accept new adults.
Before the pandemic, 40% of all dental practices with NHS dental contracts in Wales had signed up to be part of ‘contract reform’.
This contract reform was to be relaunched in October 2021, but is now postponed to April 2022.
“We now see this year as a time of reset and recovery, we remain committed to reforming dentistry,” Ms. Morgan said,
“That is why I am announcing to postpone contract reforms until April 2022 to give the service a chance to focus on the recovery.”
Anyone in need of urgent dental care can access it by dialing 111 or by contacting your board of health for advice.
Until normal service resumes, there are many ways to maintain good dental health.
More information on dental care and treatment is available at NHS 111 Wales – Health AZ: Tooth Caries.