Dental patients' A&E visits 'cost NHS up to £18m a year'

Dental treatment Image copyright PA
Image caption Many of the dental patients visiting A&E departments were suffering from toothache

People going to A&E instead of the dentist could be costing the NHS as much as £18m a year, a study has found.

Researchers from Newcastle University, and the British Dental Association (BDA), found about 135,000 dental patients a year visit A& E departments.

The BDA said GPs and medics were having to "pick up the pieces" of the government "slashing budgets and ramping up charges" for dentistry.

NHS England said that access to dentists was improving.

The study by Newcastle University's Centre for Oral Health Research, which looked at patients attending hospitals in the city over three years, and also used calculation by the BDA, found more than half the A&E visits were for toothache.

'Funding gap'

Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, from the BDA, said: "Ministers keep underestimating how much their indifference to dentistry has knock-on effects across the health service.

"GPs and A&E medics are having to pick up the pieces, while the government's only strategy is to ask our patients to pay more in to plug the funding gap.

"We are seeing patients who need our care pushed towards medical colleagues who aren't equipped to treat them.

"As long as government keeps slashing budgets and ramping up charges, we will keep seeing more of the same."

An NHS England spokeswoman said: "Figures show access to NHS dentists is in fact improving, although a small number of people with a dental emergency, such as bleeding, may need to attend A&E.

"Patients who need advice on pain relief can also get help from their local pharmacist as most causes of dental pain don't need antibiotics.

"Anyone in need of an NHS dentist should contact their own dental surgery or NHS 111, who can signpost them to the most appropriate service for treatment."

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