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The BBC's Richard Hanniford reports
"There's a shortage of specialists"
 real 28k

Friday, 17 March, 2000, 00:19 GMT
'Four year wait for dental work'
Dental work
Orthodontists are in short supply
People in some areas of the country can wait up to four years for orthodontic treatment in hospital, according to a British Dental Association (BDA) survey.

The BDA says many of these patients could be treated outside hospital by an orthodontic practitioner - but these specialists are in short supply.

Dentist leaders have asked for an urgent meeting with the Department of Health to resolve the issue.

There is a shortage of specialists in hospital and community services as well as in specialist practice and clearer guidelines on treatment priorities need to be agreed

Warren Jones, vice chairman, British Dental Association
According to the BDA, in many hospitals there were two waiting lists for orthodontics - one for initial assessment and advice and a second one for any necessary subsequent treatment.

The BDA survey found wide regional variations in waiting times.

Patients living in Chelsea and Westminster only had to wait three weeks for an initial assessment.

But across London, in Barking and Havering the wait was 78 weeks.

The average wait for treatment following an initial assessment was 70 weeks.

Regional variations

But once again there was wide regional variation. In four health authority (HA) areas, there was no wait at all, but in Oxfordshire people are waiting up to 4 years (200 weeks).

People who can be treated in a specialist practice, rather than a hospital, may find waiting lists shorter, but there are wide regional variations in the availability of specialist practitioners.

Nearly four in ten are based in London and the South East.

There is a four-fold difference in the ratio of specialists to 12-year-olds between London and the West Midlands.

The average wait in a specialist practice was 21 weeks - with people in Somerset not having to wait at all, but people in both Northamptonshire and Rotherham waiting nearly three years (150 weeks).

People being treated in specialist practices waited an average of six months (26 weeks) for subsequent treatment after their initial appointment - although many did not have to wait at all.

'Urgent need'

Warren Jones, Vice Chairman of the BDA's Central Committee for Hospital Dental Services (CCHDS) and Consultant Orthodontist at Warrington Hospital NHS Trust said: "This government came to power promising to tackle inequalities in health and provide better access for patients to NHS services.

"Three years on, this survey paints a picture of long waiting times for orthodontic care in many parts of the UK.

"There is a shortage of specialists in hospital and community services as well as in specialist practice and clearer guidelines on treatment priorities need to be agreed.

"We want constructive dialogue with the government - and soon, because a solution is urgently needed."

Orthodontics is concerned with the development and management of irregularities of the teeth jaws and face.

The most common problems are overcrowding, impacted teeth (where a tooth cannot erupt fully because it is partially blocked by another tooth), and protruding upper teeth.

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