Reducing A&E pressure
The BDA believes that dentists could ease the much reported pressures on accident and emergency (A&E) departments if more in hours urgent care slots were commissioned.
The chair of the BDA’s General Dental Practice Committee, HenrikOvergaard-Nielsen, has written to Sara Hurley, chief dental officer (CDO) for England, seeking a meeting to establish if such an agreement can be reached.
The letter suggests that this could address the CDO’s concerns about the need for a long term solution to improve access to urgent dental care, as well as reducing costly A&E and GP attendances for dental complaints.
The BDA estimates that around 135,000 dental patients attend A&E per year at an annual cost of nearly £18m – with over 95,000 cases of toothache coming in at £12.5m – while a further 600,000 patients a year seek treatment from GPs. Neither service is equipped to treat dental pain.
The letter points out that if the BDA’s proposal was adopted it would also have the benefit of providing a clear indication to NHS 111 which dental practices have the availability and capacity to treat patients who need urgent care.
Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, chair of General Dental Practice at the BDA, said: “No one is in any doubt, not least the CDO, that our NHS hospital and GP services are bursting at the seams and how, unwittingly, dental attendances are adding to these pressures.
“We believe dentists can ease this burden if more slots were commissioned for in hours urgent care. This would ease the frustration for patients who cannot get the care they need from seeing their GP or going to the A&E.
“Ensuring that patients are treated in the right place, at the right time and by the right team is essential, both to ensure appropriate diagnosis and treatment for patients and to help optimise the NHS’s finite resources.
“We’re sure this would also make it easier for NHS 111 to do their job because they would know where to direct patients for urgent dental care.”