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GPs pick up burden of dentist work

By Gareth Iacobucci

Almost four out of five GP practices are using consultation time to address patients' dental issues due to a failure or lack of dental services, according to a survey conducted by the National Association of Primary Care.

In a survey of 26 GP practices, 78% said they had used some general practice consultations to address dental issues, with almost three quarters seeing more than one dental case a week.

The findings, which paint a grim picture of current dental provision, follow widespread GP outrage at recent comments by the Health minister Ben Bradshaw advising patients who could not get dental treatment to visit their GP.

Of the 21 practices which said they had used GP consultations to treat dental issues, 71% (15) indicated that they saw more than one dental case a week, with the remaining 19% (6) seeing at least one case a month.

GPs were mostly treating dental abscesses, pain or infections, and in one case, lacerations resulting from a brace, with several practices seeing children who had to have their teeth extracted due to decay and lack of access to dental services.

Respondents cited the ‘failure of dental services in the locality' and ‘patients' failure to use services appropriately' as reasons for offering treatment.

In a separate rapid response survey of all PCTs, 18 responded within the timeframe, with all, except one, claiming to have arrangements in place for the treatment of dental emergencies, both in and out of hours.

Maggie Marum, consultant at the NAPC said: ‘This survey identifies some serious concerns about the availability of general dental services, particularly in relation to the provision for children.'

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