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Monday, 10 February, 2003, 15:30 GMT
Pensioner pulls tooth with nutcracker
Connie Humphries
Connie Humphries pulled her tooth while watching TV
A pensioner from west Wales who pulled a painful tooth out with a nutcracker is mounting a campaign about a lack of NHS dental care in the area

Seventy-one-year-old Connie Humphrys, from St Dogmaels near Cardigan, said she did not want to undertake a 90-mile round trip for NHS treatment and decided to perform the extraction herself.

My grandmother was a suffragette and now I'm taking up this cause

Connie Humphrys

Last-minute emergency NHS treatment would have also meant a 40-mile trip to Milford Haven.

A former NHS patient, Mrs Humphrys wobbled her tooth loose over a week and pulled it out while watching television one evening.

"I plucked up the courage, closed my eyes and thought 'it's now or never', I gave it one big yank and it came out," said Mrs Humphrys.

She added: "Unless I smile or laugh you can't see the gap."

Mrs Humphrys has still got the tooth, which did not have a filling, and says she is keeping it as evidence.

"I was determined, we are being put over a barrel.

"It wasn't so much the cost, I'm told it can cost between 40-60 - it's just the fact one doesn't have a choice."

Suffragette

Mrs Humphrys' one-woman campaign for better services for NHS dentists' patients has led her to contact Welsh Assembly Health Minister Jane Hutt.

"I hope Jane Hutt will see the state of the NHS dental service, it is in dire straits and she should do something to correct it."

"My grandmother was a suffragette and now I'm taking up this cause."

Mrs Humphrys said she kept regular appointments at her former dentists but they went private last summer.

"I suffer from receding gums, but my tooth had not been filled," she said.

Her protest has also led to backing from Plaid Cymru's AM for Ceredigion, Elin Jones.

The Welsh Assembly has a new initiative to attract dentists to NHS work
The Welsh Assembly has a new initiative to attract dentists to NHS work

Ceredigion Community Health Council's Dr Monica Williams said the problem was not one of funding - but of attracting NHS dentists to the area.

She said a new NHS dentist had opened in Carmarthen but already there was a waiting list.

"The lists are full so we are continually playing catch-up," said Dr Williams.

She added the problem is long-running and the CHC has been consulted by the assembly about the matter.

Dental initiative

A list of proposals such as paying private dentists to take NHS patients or having salaried dentists could be the way forward.

A Welsh Assembly spokesman said general dental practitioners were not employees of the NHS, were in contract with health authorities and were free to decide how much of their time they wish to devote to NHS work.

He said the Welsh dental initiative has led to the setting up of 'unprecedented' levels of grants to dentists willing to do work for the NHS.

He added: "The initiative has been very successful attracting new dentists into Wales and in the last few months new dentists have been recruited to the Dyfed Powys area."


More from south west Wales
See also:

03 Jan 02 | Health
06 Sep 01 | Health
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