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Suffolk GP Dr David Brandon on why he had to go private for dental treatment



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Dr David Brandon is an NHS GP, local healthcare leader, and has teeth in need of assistance – he talks about his struggle to find an NHS dentist and the reasons behind the crisis.

“I’m afraid, you’ll probably need to go private.”

The advice I was given by the kindly, but ultimately powerless NHS 111 dental nurse.

Dr David Brandon (56797776)
Dr David Brandon (56797776)

An experience shared by many of you I’m sure, but I have recently wasted hours of my time trying to access non-emergency NHS dental care.

Eventually, drawing the conclusion that my efforts were futile, I recognised my mission was doomed to the same fate as those seeking the Loch Ness monster so am spending my children’s summer holiday budget on having drills and probes explore the recesses of my premolars.

The poor blighters have suffered from years of NHS work-stress-related tooth grinding.

Dr Brandon said dental practices are 'small businesses facing rising costs, workforce shortages, increasing backlogs in the system, whilst fighting a tidal wave of growing need'
Dr Brandon said dental practices are 'small businesses facing rising costs, workforce shortages, increasing backlogs in the system, whilst fighting a tidal wave of growing need'

I’m very mindful of the privilege afforded to me that this is even an option; for many it is a choice between decay or debt.

Why is the situation so bad? What I want you to hear loud and clear from me, is that this is the result of a political choice, and completely unreasonable behaviour by NHS England. Think Cruella DeVil buying puppies.

We in General Practice live the consequences of this every day as well, so I have every sympathy for our colleagues in dentistry.

Whilst many would have popular opinion conjure up visions of medics and dentists ignoring their patients whilst swigging Champagne and facing each other down on the golf course, the reality is far from this.

Primary care services are doing everything they can whilst facing pressures as a result of a decade of underinvestment.

The pandemic has just made all this worse.

Dental practices (like most GP surgeries and many community pharmacies) are small businesses facing rising costs, workforce shortages, increasing backlogs in the system, whilst fighting a tidal wave of growing need.

I think anyone running any small business at the moment will recognise this sentiment. As businesses, we hold a contract with NHS England to provide contracted services.

Unfortunately, NHSE have a habit of behaving so badly in negotiations, that the dentists have been put in an impossible position.

Accepting the NHS contract leaves them in a situation where they cannot keep their businesses afloat on the terms offered and have exited en-masse.

Why should we care? We all need our dentists, we need our community pharmacies, and we need our doctors. We benefit hugely from having locally run services, which in GP are free to all at the point of contact.

General practice is the most efficient part of the NHS, delivering more than 90 per cent of all contacts for less than 10 per cent of the budget.

I know that the pressures throughout the system have made access to GP care harder for many, but imagine what it would be like if GP services faced the same collapse as has been seen in NHS dentistry.

We must not let that happen.

How can you help?

Don’t believe the rhetoric that GP surgeries are somehow not delivering. We are. Usually for 12 hours or more in a day without a lunchbreak.

GP is delivering all-time record numbers of consultations; it’s the need that has grown, amid a shrinking workforce. Be kind to those doing their best to help you.

Challenge your political leaders to lobby NHS England to behave reasonably and work together with the healthcare professions, rather than against them.

I want a thriving future for our NHS, where we can all access the healthcare, and dental care, that we need.