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Lincolnshire’s NHS dentist challenge laid bare as South Holland practice owner reveals plan to go private

An ‘overwhelming’ workload and struggles to find staff are forcing another dentist to give up NHS work next year – as health bosses reveal their plans to improve the county’s under-pressure service.

The dentist – who did not wish to be named – is looking to give up NHS work for adults in March 2025 after being unable to recruit staff in three years. His previous colleagues quit after Covid due to the workload.

This will only exacerbate the problems in and around the area – with many residents reporting struggles to find an NHS dentist.

Another NHS dentist is going private. Photo: istock
Another NHS dentist is going private. Photo: istock

Lincolnshire Integrated Care Board took over the responsibility for providing dentistry services from NHS England last year and is due to start work on a dental strategy which will include looking at local needs.

So far the board has recruited 15 dentists and is looking to create a Centre for Dental Development to train and retain staff in the county – following previous calls to create a dental school in the county.

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But this will be of little immediate help for the local dentist and his patients.

The dentist, who is hoping to continue with NHS work for children and is based in South Holland, said: “There is no workforce in the area. Trying to find a dentist is like trying to find a unicorn.

“We have two dentists and all the others left for private after Covid. We can’t replace them. The workload is overwhelming. We need more staff and materials are expensive after Covid.

“There has been a 30-40% increase in costs but we are getting back 5% more. It doesn’t reflect the reality.

“I am 51 years-old and I can’t do this in the long-term. I am doing my best to help people.”

Dentists are hard to come by in Lincolnshire. Photo :iStock
Dentists are hard to come by in Lincolnshire. Photo :iStock

The ICB took over the contract to provide dental services from NHS England on April 1.

Sandra Williamson, Director of Health Inequalities, Prevention and Regional Collaboration, told South Holland District Council’s performance monitoring panel meeting on Tuesday: “We fully acknowledge within Lincolnshire some of the challenges of NHS dental care.”

The NHS contract with dentists has been in place for 18 years and has not been updated since it was introduced in 2006 by the last Labour government.

Ms Williamson told the meeting: “They (dentists) can’t maintain lists of patients and therefore it is very much about capacity for them to access NHS dentists.

“In Lincolnshire we do have access challenges but we do fare better than average across national.”

The dental surgery at Johnson Hospital in Spalding is still not occupied as the search for NHS places gets harder for residents
The dental surgery at Johnson Hospital in Spalding is still not occupied as the search for NHS places gets harder for residents

Coun Andrew Woolf questioned the financial package available to dentists and highlighted that one dentist in Spalding was in the process of terminating its contract – something Ms Williamson seemed unaware of.

She said it was not an overnight fix but the ICB was running an ‘incentivised scheme’ to attract new dentists to the county.

Ms Williamson said: “We have had good take-up across Lincolnshire as we were able to recruit 15 extra dentists to help with capacity.

“Medium to long-term we are working with the University of Lincoln regarding the establishment of a centre of dental development.”

The dentist facilities in the Johnson Hospital, in PInchbeck, currently sit unused after NHS bosses were unable to find someone to run the service.

What do you think? Do you struggle to access an NHS dentist? What needs to be done to address this? Post your thoughts in the comments below...

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