Garston Lodge dental patients worry as NHS treatment to end

Dental patients feel “no choice” but to pay for private treatment as their practice will stop seeing NHS patients.

In October, Garston Lodge Dental Practice sent a letter to patients saying it is joining an increasing number of dental practices moving away from the NHS – due to a “chronic lack of investment”.

The practice will no longer see patients under the NHS from December 31 and all check-ups after November 21 have been cancelled.

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Patients have reported struggling to find other dentists in Watford able to take them.

Someone who posted on the online neighbourhood group Nextdoor reported calling eight practices and being told none were taking NHS patients, with one having a waiting list of 700 people.

A Garston Lodge patient who spoke to us did not want to be named as they felt they will likely have to go back to the practice.

They said: “I feel like I need to stay with them, I’m between a rock and a hard place. I can’t find another NHS dentist.

“I understand the situation they are in but I feel like I’ve got no other choice.

“Also, I don’t drive so I can’t be searching all over Watford for a practice that will take me, my SEN (special educational needs) children, and my adult SEN child on.

“I know there are lots of other people that are really upset and struggling, they can’t afford to go private.

“It’s not fair on this whole estate because we are a poor estate.”

Patients were invited to stay on through patient membership, paying between £12.99 and £21.99 each month for a discount on treatments and two to four yearly visits, with a one-off joining fee of £9.50.

In the letter, the practice said that “due to a chronic lack of investment in NHS dentistry” it could no longer provide the level of care patients expect and remain a viable business.

The British Dental Association said 45% of dentists in England have reduced their NHS commitment since the start of the pandemic with thousands quitting the NHS altogether due to underfunding and difficulty recruiting.

The association added it believed MP Maria Caulfield was right when she said: “There is a shortage not of dentists, but dentists taking on NHS work.”

A spokesperson for the NHS in the East of England said: “We are working closely with dental providers to improve access to services in the area, including inviting NHS contract holders to take on additional activity.”

Garston Lodge Dental Practice was approached for comment.

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