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Teenagers waiting years for dentists

PUBLISHED: 16:48 12 June 2008 | UPDATED: 11:12 03 July 2010

YOUNG people are being forced to wait up to four years for orthodontic appointments, despite more than £5m being pumped into the region's NHS dental services.

YOUNG people are being forced to wait up to four years for orthodontic appointments, despite more than £5m being pumped into the region's NHS dental services.

The average wait in the Yarmouth and Waveney Primary Care Trust (PCT) area now tops three and a half years, with patients in Suffolk and Norfolk waiting two and a half year before an appointment.

Although £5m of NHS money is being invested into the region's dental services this year, only about a fifth of that money will be spent on tackling the severe shortage of orthodontists.

Children in their early teens are often put on waiting lists for corrective and cosmetic treatments which they will need when they reach 14 or 15, because dentists know that the wait for an appointment will be lengthy. Although this is common practice, it has lead to waits of three or four years before the teenagers are even given an initial assessment with an orthodontist.

In the Yarmouth and Waveney area, the average waiting time is three and a half years - meaning that many patients are left waiting significantly longer than that before treatment.

With some youngsters being referred to orthodontists when they are 10 or 11, they could be in their late teens before the work to correct their teeth is complete.

Bob Purser, contracts manager for Yarmouth and Waveney PCT, said the trust was hoping to invest up to £1m over the next few years to employ more orthodontists.

He said: “We acknowledge that there is currently an extended assessment waiting time for primary care specialist orthodontics treatment. A key priority for the PCT for the coming 12 months is to significantly reduce this waiting time.”

Suffolk PCT announced a £1.3m investment in its NHS dental services earlier this year, but only about £900,000 has been ring-fenced for orthodontic care.NHS Norfolk is due to increase spending on dentistry by 13pc next year, totalling a £2.8m investment

A spokesman for Suffolk PCT said: “We are aware that some of the waiting lists for orthodontic treatment are longer than we would like. Working with our orthodontists, we are identifying ways of improving access and reducing waiting times. In 07/08 the PCT invested an additional £230,000 precisely for this purpose.”

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