GPs face extra workload as last community dental clinic in London closed

Practices could face increased demand from patients unable to access dental care, GP leaders have warned, after the NHS said it is to close London's last community urgent dental clinic.

NHS England has said the Kentish Town urgent community dental service will be closed at the end of March. Commissioners said there is enough existing capacity at high street dental practices and out-of-hours services, despite more than 5,400 patients using the walk-in clinic last year. Londoners in need of emergency dental care will in future be left with just two hospitals with restrictive access.

Londonwide LMCs said GP practices were clogged up with patients unable to access other health and care services and warned that patients should be aware that GPs are not able to treat dental emergencies.

The GP body said that limited access to dental services ‘inevitably adds pressure onto an already saturated general practice network’.

GP crisis

An LMCs spokesman said: ‘Funding is falling for NHS dentistry and other community services like district nurses, health visitors, mental health workers and social services. The knock-on effect of this is that general practice gets clogged up, staff are overwhelmed and GPs are working in dangerously busy conditions where the quality of patient care can be affected, as practices squeeze more consultations into less real time.’

He added: ‘London GPs are increasingly being asked to undertake work outside of their NHS contract and beyond the limits of their medical competence, in order to cover for reductions in other services. Patients need to be aware that GPs are not trained or licensed to treat dental emergencies or conditions and they must follow their GPs’ advice if told to see a dentist.’

British Dental Association chair Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen told The Observer that access to emergency dental care was ‘increasingly a postcode lottery’. ‘Inadequate provision is simply piling more pressure on GPs and A&Es that are not equipped to provide dental treatment,' he said. 

A spokeswoman for NHS England London said: ‘There are more than 1,250 high street dentists across London where patients can access dental care when they need it. Londoners in need of urgent dental care should call NHS 111 who can signpost them to the most appropriate service for their treatment.’

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