In a letter to Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, Mr Seely has set out the problems faced by Island residents and dentists alike. He has highlighted that some Islanders are unable to get NHS dentist appointments resulting in many travelling to the mainland for treatment, with some children never having seen a dentist at all.
Bob has said dental practices are facing problems due to a lack of trainees, funding and bureaucracy. A lack of trainees is likely, according to Mr Seely, due to high relocation costs, lower than average wages and the additional GDC registration fee of £114 per year.
The MP has also told Mr Hancock that dental schools – the nearest being in Portsmouth – were not producing enough dentists due to a lack of both funding and work experience opportunities.
The Island’s MP has said the situation has been further exacerbated by dentists retiring or leaving the Island which had left dental labs and surgeries in need of replacements, with the restrictions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic also adding to the list of problems.
A number of practical suggestions have been made including:
- The initiation of a dental training scheme on the Island
- Simplification of the process for qualifying as a training practice
- Funding to boost the salaries of interns
- Changes to contracts to encourage people to stay
- Separation of the laboratory fee and dental surgeon salary
- A scheme to recognise the highly-skilled work laboratories do to ensure a fairer price for work
- Support for laboratories
- Removal of the need for patients to see an IW NHS dentist before they can see an IW orthodontist.
In his letter, Bob has said:
“Along with all other health staff on the Island, I want to thank those involved with dentistry on the Island. This past year has been challenging and I am grateful to those dentists who have spoken to me about suggesting practical ways to improve the situation.
“It is vital that Islanders have access to NHS dental care, and ideally on the Island. A lack of dental care can lead to more serious problems including cancers, and I am concerned that head and neck cancer referrals were down by around 65 per cent last year.
“There are a number of issues that need to be addressed, some which are unique to the Island.
“I have made the Health Secretary aware of the situation we are in with regard to dentistry on the Island. Mr Hancock previously recognised that the Island is unique in terms of its health geography and that healthcare costs are likely increased here because we are separated from the mainland. This is another example of that.”
The results of a recent survey on Isle of Wight dental services, conducted by Healthwatch Isle of Wight, are due in April.