A ‘SUCCESSFUL’ campaign to recruit dental consultants has been carried out, the government has said, after it emerged that some children were facing seven-year waits for orthodontic treatment.
In response to a JEP freedom of information request regarding staffing levels within the dental department, the government revealed that there were fewer than five orthodontic therapists in the Community Dental Department last year, and this had not changed in the previous three years. This was also the case for consultants, dental department managers, dental healthcare assistants and associate specialists. Only administrative staff and dental nurse totals were in the double digits.
Where staff numbers are fewer than five, the government applies ‘disclosure control’ to avoid identification of individuals in freedom of information responses.
There were also six vacancies in the department as of October, with this increasing to seven by the end of November.
But the government said in its response that ‘consultant recruitment has been successful with several candidates due to start’ this year.
Parents have been left facing the prospect of paying thousands of pounds for private dental care for their children, or being placed on a seven-year waiting list for treatment at the General Hospital.
At worst, under-18s are waiting up to 357 weeks for their next appointment, a recent freedom of information request by the JEP revealed, with children and young people having an average wait of a year for a new dental appointment.
One mother told the JEP her son had been on the list for six years waiting for braces, and she had been told it would actually be 7½ years until he was seen. Kirsten Murphy said: ‘I have considered going private, but was quoted nearly £6,000.’
Mrs Murphy, who works in hospitality, said they had been affected by the pandemic, and she could not afford to pay this amount, and believed other Islanders would be in a similar position. Her son Rhys was initially referred by their dentist in 2016 when he was 11, had an appointment the following year, but was still waiting for braces this year, when he would turn 17. ‘I think it is ridiculous that children have to wait that long for treatment,’ she said.
Writing on Facebook, other parents shared similar concerns, with one saying that they had gone private, costing £4,000 for a brace. Another said that an appointment for her daughter was cancelled in June 2020 but they still had not received a letter for a rescheduled appointment.
Others wrote that they had been waiting for three years, or that they were waiting two years for an appointment that should have been every six months.
One mother was told it would be eight weeks to have teeth removed but it had been five months. Another, who wished to remain anonymous, recently told the JEP that the situation was ‘really distressing’, with her ten-year-old needing ‘major work’ and being forced to wait until he was 17 for treatment. She said they might need to look at going private in the meantime.
The number of appointments for outpatients under the age of 18 has dropped from 1,294 in 2019 to 480 last year, although the government has attributed a general backlog to the pandemic.