Around 28,000 new patients are set to be offered appointments at dental practices in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot by April 2023.
Updated contracts agreed with dental practices in Wales this year, will help deal with backlogs of patients waiting to get an NHS dental appointment.
Dental practices who have signed up to the programme have agreed to see more new NHS patients as part of the reformed contract – introduced by Welsh Government tackle the queues.
Swansea Bay’s dental practices have an expectation to see around 28,000 new patients between April 1st this year and March 31st next year.
Already this has translated into 14,235 appointments being allocated to new patients.
People who are looking for an NHS dentist for routine care are advised to contact a number of practices in the area and if an appointment cannot be offered straight away, to ask to be put on their waiting list.
There is no limit to the number of waiting lists that people can join and a practice will then make contact when they have capacity to offer an appointment.
Sharon Miller, Associate Director for Primary Care at Swansea Bay University Health Board, said: “This is to help people who currently do not have a regular NHS dentist.
“A new patient is categorised as somebody who hasn’t been to that dental practice in the last four years. These patients are new to the practice.
“Our advice is to ring a number of dental practices and if they can’t offer you an appointment now, ask to be put on their waiting list.
“You can be on any number of waiting lists and someone will call you when they have capacity to offer you an appointment.
“At some point a practice will get to you because they are working their way through their waiting lists.”
Dental practices have been severely impacted by the pandemic due to infection control guidelines affecting some routine treatments.
Similarly to other services, the number of patients able to be seen at dental practices was very limited during the pandemic.
The target of seeing up to 28,000 new patients is hoped to make a significant impact on the backlog of those waiting for appointments.
“Dental practices were closed at the start of the pandemic and then very restricted on the number of patients that could come through,” Sharon added.
“This new expectation puts a real focus on new patients being seen.”
While it is recognised not everyone will be seen straight away, dental practices are asking for patience while they continue to work their way through their lists.
Sharon said: “As a health board, we are asking patients to be patient if they’re not in urgent need.
“We are working hard to change the service so we can get those new patients through the door.”
For people needing urgent dental care, there is a service for those who are in pain or have facial swelling.
If you do not have a regular dentist, you can contact 111 and you will be directed to an urgent dental appointment.
If you do have a regular dentist, you should contact them directly or call 111 if it’s outside normal business hours.
Karl Bishop, the health board’s Dental Director, said: “The offer made by Welsh Government to practices in Wales to move to a contract model that encourages prevention and access for the most vulnerable and in need in our communities has been enthusiastically taken up by dentists in Swansea Bay.
“Almost 100 per cent of NHS dental care within the health board will be within this new model.
“This is a huge positive reflection on the commitment and foresight of our dental practitioners and their teams.
“It also provides significant benefits and opportunities for our communities as part of the health board’s drive to improve oral health and its impact on wider general health and social and family life.”
(Lead image: Swansea Bay NHS)
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