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Last Updated: Monday, 28 July, 2003, 16:44 GMT 17:44 UK
Dentist shortage - hundreds queue
People queue in Carmarthen
The first 300 in the queue were issued with tickets
Hundreds of people from across mid and west Wales have been turned away after spending hours queuing to get on the books of an NHS dentist.

Highlighting the severe shortage of NHS dentists in parts of Wales, the queue started forming at 0600 BST outside the Brynteg Dental Surgery in Carmarthen on Monday.

The surgery had taken out a notice in the town's weekly paper saying it would be accepting 300 new NHS patients on a first come first served basis.

But by 0900 BST it was estimated that there were 600 people from across the region hoping to join.

They turned those further behind us away because there are only 300 places
Vanessa Richards

Numbered tickets were issued to the first 300 in the queue and the rest were turned away.

Those lucky enough to have secured a place said it showed the desperate need for more NHS dentists.

Grace and Robert Southall had made the 50 mile round trip from Lampeter and joined the queue at 0700 BST.

Mrs Southall said: "The dentist in Lampeter closed last year and we've tried ringing everywhere from Aberystwyth to Swansea.

"It is quite a long drive but there are not a lot of options."

Vanessa Richards and her husband were registered with a dental surgery in Carmarthen but it no longer sees NHS patients.

Vanessa Richards
Vanessa Richards was number 229 in the queue

She said: "We got here about 0830 BST and I'm number 229 in the queue.

"They turned those further behind us away because there are only 300 places.

"When we were no longer able to go to our usual dentist I telephoned NHS Direct and was told I could either go to Machynlleth or to Ammanford where there is a two-year waiting list."

Her 80-year-old father is also without a dentist but was unable to join the queue.

"What are the elderly and disabled supposed to do?," Mrs Richards added.

The Brynteg Dental Surgery
People queued patiently so they could be registered

Earlier this year the British Dental Association warned a shortage of staff meant people in many parts of Wales had little or no access to NHS dentists.

The BDA estimated an extra 40 dentists were needed across Wales, and said with a third of dentists due to reach retirement age in the next five years the crisis in the profession could worsen.

The Carmarthenshire local health board has responsibility for dental services in the county.

Councillor Nigel Evans said it was working with the Welsh assembly to improve the situation.

"It was a surprise to see so many people queuing today and it just goes to show the demand that is out there for the NHS and the pressures on it," he said.

Assembly spokesperson said: "The Welsh Assembly Government has launched the Dental Initiative, as an all Wales programme which has been very successful attracting new dentists into those parts of Wales where they have been most needed...

"The initiative offers financial assistance to dentists who are willing to make a sustained commitment to the NHS and who are prepared to establish new practices, or expand existing practices in designated areas, through the Welsh Dental Initiative.

"Carmarthen was designated as an area in need of grant aided assistance and as a direct result of incentives offered through stage three of this scheme a dentist in Carmarthenshire was able to extend the practice resulting in further NHS patients being able to register."




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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