Police called to manage queues outside a dental practice
A Bristol practice opened on February 5, 2024, to hundreds of people queuing to secure NHS dental care. By midday, police officers had arrived to manage the scene.
Bupa Dental Care closed in June 2023. As a result, many residents have not had access to an NHS for nine months.
Following the success of a public campaign, SGA Services Ltd took over Saint Paul’s Dental Practice.
The practice was set to open at 11 am, but people arrived hours earlier for the chance to register. Eyewitnesses said that there were hundreds of people waiting, and the queue stretched around the corner.
Maria, a resident who had been queuing since 8.30 am, said to BristolLive, “The dentist has been closed for some time. I couldn't get into any of the other dentists - the appointments were fully booked, and the waiting lists were too long.
"I'm also a carer - although I'm nearly 80 - and I think it's important to keep up with good healthcare. It's disgusting that it was closed in the first place, I don't know why they did it."
Maria mentioned that a neighbour of hers who was due to have a cancer operation the next day was also in the queue. “She's also disabled and can't stand for very long, but she's had no choice but to stand," she said.
Statistics released by North Bristol NHS Trust for the period April 1, 2022, to March 31, 2023, suggest dental access is a growing issue in the area. The Trust said its emergency department has seen 235 patients with dental abscesses and 55 due to tooth decay. Another hospital in the area, University Hospitals, Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, said that it has seen “775 patients with dental abscesses and 290 with tooth decay” in the same period.
Avon and Somerset Police were called to manage the scene. By 2 pm, officers had spoken to those further back to inform them they were unlikely to reach the front.
Shawn Charlwood, chair of the British Dental Association’s General Dental Practice Committee, said, “Does the future of NHS dentistry involve the police turning away desperate patients?
“If ministers think sticking plaster polices will solve this crisis, then these scenes will be repeated.
“Nothing short of fundamental reform can save this service and restore access to millions.”
Author: Muireann Hannan