Audio Stories Reports

Decaying Dentistry


Reported by Karen

Published on Monday, April 22nd, 2024

Healthcare Access Money and Finance Poverty
Audio Stories Reports

Decaying Dentistry


Written by Karen

Published on Monday, April 22nd, 2024

Healthcare Access

Money and Finance

Poverty

 

Hi, it’s Karen here. Just want to let you know about the bit of a dilemma I had the other week when I got a letter from the dentist.

I’ve been with this dentist for about over 40 years as an NHS patient. And a lot of the time, I was working full-time, so I always paid for my dental care. Obviously, at a much-reduced price – it was the NHS price. Even working, I couldn’t have ever afforded to go private. Now all of a sudden, we’ve gone private, and I’ve been told that I can stay on with the surgery as a paying … They’ve got a payment plan scheme, so I could pay £18.50 a month, and that would include two check-ups a year and two hygienist appointments a year – that’s basically just removing your plaque. Years ago, the dentists used to do that at no extra cost. There were no such things as a bloody hygienists. I’ve not seen a hygienist for many, many years because I won’t pay extra. I can’t pay extra; I can’t afford it. And then obviously, it gives you 15% off what you pay privately.

I felt that this was coming because about five or six years ago, we got a young dentist, probably straight from uni. He’s nice enough and everything, but I did get the feeling that he didn’t agree with people on benefits, getting free dental care. Just a gut feeling that I got. Every time I went for a check-up, it was a matter of, “Oh, yeah, everything’s fine, Karen,” and all the rest. I’ve not had anything done on my teeth for years. I wasn’t actually surprised when I got the letter. I just thought, “Well, I’m not going back there because I can’t afford it. Full stop.”

I started ringing round, started going online, looking at dentists in my area. It’s a big area that I chose. I’d have to get two buses to most of them. You’re probably talking a 45-minute journey, if not longer on some of them. There was 35 dentists that came up, 19 straight away were private. Then I went on the ones that said that they were NHS, but they had notes on saying they were full. The remainder of them, I phoned up that said that they were still taking NHS patients on, and none of them were. So that’s 19 [private], and 19 [I called] which is 28. That left the seven. I phoned four of them which said they weren’t taking any NHS patients on and [they] didn’t know when they’d be taking any NHS patients on.

That left three. I’ve got in with one of them and two I couldn’t get through to. I have no idea if they’re taking people on or not. So that’s out of 35 dentists all in all, there was three at the moment that say that they’re taking new patients on. Now, I’m glad that I’ve got in with them. Who’s to say that they might go private in six months’ time or in a year’s time, or they may stay NHS for a long, long time; I hope they do. But all I can say to you is the anxiety I went through when I read that letter. To be told suddenly that you have to go private when you know there’s not a cat in hell’s chance of being able to afford the prices that they’ll be asking for. I went into panic. Like I said, my anxiety shot through the roof, and then it’s the worry. I thought, “God, when’s this going to end?” It’s gas, it’s electric, it’s the cost of living crisis that we’re going through. It just goes on and on and on. I just feel that the things that are being thrown at us, really, I don’t know.

I feel like they’re just trying to trample all over us. And by them, I mean the government. And then I got thinking, I’m quite lucky. I’ve got a phone. I’ve got the internet on the phone. I’ve got unlimited minutes. Now, if there’s anybody… For one, if they haven’t got a mobile phone, they wouldn’t have a cat in hell’s chance of ringing round to find a dentist that’s taking on new patients. Then if they have a phone, but they haven’t got much credit on the phone, they haven’t got a cat in hell’s chance again because it took me all day Friday, Saturday morning, and most of Monday. I was ringing, my son was ringing, and my brother-in-law was ringing because all three of us are at the same practice. That’s how much ringing round we did. Again, if you’ve got unlimited… I’ve got unlimited minutes, if you’ve only got so many minutes, you’d run out of them as well. There’s another big chunk of people that wouldn’t even be able to enquire about getting on with a new dentist. I looked at some of the comparisons of the charges, and they’re absolutely out of reach. If you go private, you have got to be earning a lot of money.

I think even people on a good wage will struggle to pay private fees. The other thing that… It made me shudder, really, because I thought, what if one day a letter comes through the post and I open it and it’s from my GP practice just saying, as from July, you will not be able to see a GP on the NHS. You will only be able to see a GP if you go private. I’m sorry, but this is going to happen. If we don’t do something about it, this is what’s going to happen. The conservative government wants people to go private. It’s happened in so many other areas now. Even like with your ears, they don’t syringe ears anymore, you’ve got to go and pay to have them done. They don’t do podiatry anymore unless you’re diabetic, you have to find a private podiatrist to have your feet done. They’re slipping these rules in through the back door and you’re not aware of them until you actually need that service. It’s just shocking. Like I say, I do find myself quite lucky to have a phone, to have other people around me, to help me and all the rest of it.

Not everybody’s that lucky. If you’re on a very, very low wage or if you’re on benefits or if you’re street homeless, you haven’t got a chance. So, yeah, thanks for listening.

 

Groundswell have support resources for dentistry and teeth care – please click here to access

Written by Karen


I'm Karen from Manchester it's great to meet you all. I'm a recovering alcoholic,
I experienced a short time of homelessness many years ago, I'm a survivor of domestic abuse and I'm happy to say I've come through it all.
I volunteered at a local Alcohol and Substance Abuse centre where I qualified as a Peer Mentor.
I now care for my elderly dad who is housebound and I feel blessed to be able and well enough to do this.
I hope as part of this Community Reporting team our stories can contribute to making a difference to homelessness and health inequalities and shine a light on any other injustices we come across.
 

Read all of Karen's articles

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