Sally Murphy, 58, said she couldn’t find an NHS dentist in Wirral and had to get a second mortgage to cover privatization costs.
A woman has flown to Turkey to have an operation after claiming she cannot see a UK dentist unless she took out a second mortgage and paid £19,000.
Wirral has seen one of the biggest falls in NHS dentists in the country, losing 10% of its NHS dentists in the last five years. Larger decreases were recorded in only 12 areas.
Sally Murphy, 58, from Wallasey in Wirral, said she was removed from her old dentist during Covid as an NHS patient.
After struggling to find another practice, Ms Murphy looked into going private but found it would cost more than £19,000.
She decided to book surgery in Turkey with the operation, a hotel in Antalya and flights only costing her around £5,000, almost a quarter of what she would have to pay privately in the UK.
Though she continued, she said, “You know what? I still don’t feel safe. I’m going today and I’m really scared.”
Dental treatment a “zip code lottery”
Dental surgeries in Turkey have gained popularity in the UK, earning the nickname ‘turkey teeth’, but some people have suffered serious complications, according to a BBC investigation
A spokesman for the British Dental Association (BDA) called it “a national disgrace” that patients were going abroad for treatment and said NHS dentistry had become “a postcode lottery”.
During the leadership election, Prime Minister Liz Truss said dentistry would be one of her top priorities.
Dentist shortage in Wirral
Many Wirral residents said they were also struggling to get dental treatment, with some saying it had been waiting months. Some said this meant they had to go private, but that comes at a cost. Others said they could only have been treated in the emergency room or attempted to fix their teeth at home.
Ms Murphy had a dental bridge fitted by the NHS aged 22 after her teeth were knocked out, but during Covid the enamel began to fall out.
She said she tried to contact her old dentist throughout Covid and when she finally got through she said she was told she could not register again.
For Mrs. Murphy, who works as a chaplain in a prison, her looks are a big concern, especially since she recently lost a tooth as her work is face-to-face.
She said: “I’m very insecure about my teeth. My confidence is zero right now because there’s nothing I can do about fixing it unless I get a second mortgage.
“I’ll make a tooth out of putty for the trip as I currently look like Nanny McPhee.”
Mrs. Murphy flew out on September 20 and hopes to have the surgery completed by Friday. She plans to document the procedure.
Lack of funding for NHS patients
dr Tam Haque has been a dentist for 25 years and said practices in Wirral are struggling to pay the bill that takes in NHS patients due to funding issues.
He said: “The funding is so low it’s almost impossible to run a business. Even if we wanted to, there doesn’t seem to be any capacity to increase our NHS workload.
“The more you work to help people who need a lot of treatments, the more likely you are to be penalized for missing your targets and having your funding cut.
“It’s an impossible situation,” he adds, “when you have to turn away children and those in need, it’s very frustrating and annoying.”
A national disgrace
A spokesman for the British Dental Association (BDA) said: “It is shameful – and a national disgrace – that the provision of NHS dentistry has become such a postcode lottery that some people are being forced to go abroad to access one affordable treatment they desperately need, or even resort to DIY dentistry.
“This is the reality for patients who are at the sharp end of a decade of brutal dental budget cuts. Successive governments have failed to tackle the NHS’ dental crisis – only funding care for around half the population. BDA estimates it would cost an additional £880m a year just to bring resources back to 2010 levels.”
A spokesman for the NHS North West said: “The COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected the North West region, has inevitably led to a disruption in routine dental care as NHS dentists have to focus on serving the one have urgent dental needs.
“It is important to note that anyone experiencing a toothache or in urgent need of support, help or advice can call their own dental practice in the usual way. If they don’t have a regular dentist and have an urgent need, they can contact the Dental Helpline on 0161 476 9651.”
“The NHS recently announced the first reforms to dental services since 2006 which will help practices improve access, for example by allowing high-performing practices to increase activity and treat more patients – Discussions on further changes, benefiting patients and staff are ongoing.”