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‘Underserved’ Lincolnshire has just 51 NHS dental practices - with a stark disparity in the districts





‘Bureaucratic delays’ are among the issues blamed for a lack of available NHS dental care.

Lincolnshire County Council’s health and scrutiny committee will meet tomorrow (Wednesday, April 17) to discuss our dental services, with the accompanying report outlining some damning statistics for ‘underserved’ areas.

At present there are just 51 NHS dental practices in the county - which works out as one per 15,250 residents.

This map shows the 51 NHS dental practices spread across Lincolnshire whoprovide general and orthodontic dental services
This map shows the 51 NHS dental practices spread across Lincolnshire whoprovide general and orthodontic dental services

And to highlight the staggering disparity in available care, three districts have twice the number of practices operating than the remaining four.

Lincoln and East Lindsey currently have 11 NHS dental practices each while there are 10 in South Kesteven.

This is a stark contrast to West Lindsey (five), Boston (five), South Holland (five) and North Kesteven (four).

A visual graph which shows the level of dental access for LincolnshireICB by Middle Super Output Area (July to December 2023). The darker the shade thelower the rate of access
A visual graph which shows the level of dental access for LincolnshireICB by Middle Super Output Area (July to December 2023). The darker the shade thelower the rate of access

Twelve of these practices offer NHS orthodontic services, with five in South Kesteven and two in both North Kesteven and Lincoln.

South Holland, West Lindsey and East Lindsey currently each have one practice offering this service.

There is no practice offering this in the borough of Boston, although there are two specialist NHS Orthodontic practices based Boston and Spalding.

Female dentist examining young woman's teeth.
Female dentist examining young woman's teeth.

Since the summer the county has also lost four NHS practices with a further four reducing contract activity.

A statement from independent body Healthwatch Lincolnshire has called for a focus on bringing in and retaining staff to help meet local needs.

“Healthwatch Lincolnshire recognises the critical importance of ensuring accessible healthcare services for all individuals within the county,” a statement said.

Dentist: Picture:iStock
Dentist: Picture:iStock

“While the presence of 51 NHS dental practices marks a starting point, it's imperative to continually evaluate whether this number meets the needs of the population.

“We firmly believe that the focus should extend beyond simply increasing the number of practices to addressing the challenges of staff recruitment and retention.

“Additionally, leveraging the skills of overseas dentists, currently hindered by bureaucratic delays, could serve as a viable solution to alleviate the shortage of dental services in underserved areas.”

Close up of stone removal procedure at female patient.
Close up of stone removal procedure at female patient.

While numerous private practices operate in Lincolnshire, the county council’s report added that private patients may now be seeking NHS dentists due to the current economic situation.

“We are aware that people are reporting that they are unable to find a dentist taking on new NHS patients,” the report states.

“The lack of NHS dentists accepting new patients is a common challenge across both Lincolnshire and other areas of England.”

The Healthwatch Lincolnshire statement added: “We advocate for prioritising initiatives aimed at attracting and retaining dental professionals in underserved areas like South Holland, effectively catering to the oral health needs of the community,” .

“The ICB Lincolnshire Dental Strategy is actively tackling these challenges at the local level.

“We call for a national commitment to ensure that every individual has access to an NHS dentist.”

The LCC report reveals that since July 2023 there have been four NHS dental contract terminations, in North Somercotes, Market Deeping, Boston, and Stamford.

Two were due to retirement and the other two were a move to solely offering private dentistry.

There has also been a further four reductions to contract activity levels due to ‘challenges providers have been facing with the dental workforce to deliver NHS care’.

The report states that ‘recruitment and retention’ is one of the four themes within the Lincolnshire Dental Strategy which includes golden hello incentives to encourage dentists into under-served areas’.

Last month NHS England published its 2024/25 priorities and operational planning guidance, which identifies dental planning objectives for NHS Lincolnshire Integrated Care Board (ICB).

The four key pillars of a three-year plan to improve dentistry in Lincolnshire are: developing the dental workforce, improving access to dental services, increasing the focus on prevention and strengthening the integration of oral health into wider health care services.

Have you struggled to get access to an NHS dentist? Share your views in the comments.



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