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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 May, 2004, 11:14 GMT 12:14 UK
Queues as new NHS dentist opens
People queue to register at the dentist in Machynlleth
More than 100 queued in Machynlleth to register
More than 100 people queued from daybreak in a mid Wales town to register with a new NHS dentist.

There had been concern that people would face a 170-mile round trip to the nearest NHS practitioner after Machynlleth's only NHS dentist announced he was moving out of the area earlier this year.

The scenes were reminiscent of the hundreds who lined the streets of Carmarthen last summer and by the end of this morning 1,000 patients had already registered.

There is a continuing shortage of NHS dentists in some parts of Wales, particularly rural areas, which has forced health officials to offer financial incentives to encourage dentists to set up pratices in the worst-hit areas.

But despite the arrival of a replacement NHS dentist in Machynlleth, some local people say they are angry that patients are accepted on a 'first come first served' basis.

Some of those lining the streets said they had to re-register just days after the previous dentist had left the town, costing them an extra 30.

But the dental surgery denied people had been forced to pay when they re-registered and said that it had taken no money from patients who had signed up for the NHS service.

Butcher Bill Lloyd Williams said: "When the old dentist moved to Machynlleth in September 2002 people had to register and pay 30.

"The dentist, Dr Gaurav Vij, only left the town two days ago and yet people have to re-register.

"There's enough pen-pushers around the place, you'd think they could have just shifted everyone off the old dentist's register to the new dentist's one."

Patients registering in Machynlleth
Dr Botha says there has been a 'steady stream' of patients registering

Powys Local Health Board said people had to re-register as part of general UK dental service regulations.

"A dentist has to give notification that he/she is leaving two months before departing, but there was nobody to replace the former dentist in Machynlleth when patients were informed," said a spokeswoman for Powys Local Health Board (LHB).

"Dr Vij left the Machynlleth practice on May 10 and Dr Rudi Botha begins work on May 17."

Dr Botha will start practising next Tuesday following a three-year gap when he worked in Norfolk and expects to have 3,500 patients signed up within the next few weeks.

Patients were told in February that their NHS dentist - Dr Vij - was quitting the historic town's only NHS practice - leaving them with the prospect of the lengthy journey.

"The LHB has been working closely with the Welsh Assembly Government to ensure that maximum use is made of the schemes the Assembly has put in place to attract dentists into areas of shortage, like Powys," added the LHB spokeswoman.

"The difficulty in recruiting dentists is not unique to Powys, but we do recognise that there are particular issues surrounding access to services facing people living in rural communities."

Dr Botha said: "I think a lot of youngsters don't want to go into the profession any more, it's a question of underfunding generally with dentistry and young people look to other careers."


SEE ALSO:
Dentists 'stressed to limit'
25 Mar 03  |  Wales
Why NHS dentists are so hard to find
19 Sep 02  |  Breakfast


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