Patient finds options costly: Glenda Cooper examines one man's search for alternative NHS dental treatment

ANDREW DYKE had been attending the same dental practice in Worcester for 40 years. He went every six months for a check-up. Then last April he was told that it was his last National Health Service appointment.

His wife Sylvia, a local councillor who took up his case, said: 'If he wanted to keep going there he would have to go private. They showed him insurance plans which would cost him pounds 13 a month. Andrew was unemployed. He couldn't afford that. And on top of that we were paying for the NHS. It seemed a bit steep to be paying for that twice.'

Mr Dyke, 51, who had visited his dentist regularly before then - was told that if he did not visit every six months he could be 'deregistered'.

'He rang up the local family health service (FHSA) to find out where there was another NHS dentist he could go to,' said Mrs Dyke.

'They came up with three. One we had to discount immediately - he charges a pounds 25 registration fee and we couldn't afford that - and the other two were right at the other end of town. We don't have a car and buses cost money. Added to that they're so unreliable - you could just end up losing your appointment anyway because you're too late.'

Mrs Dyke, 48, was determined not to let the matter lie. She had already tried to get her son, aged 23, on to her own dentist's list, 'but he wouldn't take any new NHS patients, not even if they were family to those on his list'.

Mrs Dyke is a social worker and part of her responsibilities is to sit on the local community health council meetings. She took her complaint to the CHC who passed it on to the FHSA. 'I raised the question at every single meeting. Eventually the FHSA wrote to Brian Mawhinney (the Minister for Health) and some action was taken.'

The FHSA has asked the Government for permission to fund two salaried dentists (most dentists are paid for the treatment they do; salaried dentists are paid per hour), but is awaiting a response. Meanwhile, it has set up an emergency clinic at the weekends. Treatment there is free. 'It shows how inadequate dental care is in Worcester if they have to set up a 'pain' clinic - it's just a sop,' Mrs Dyke said.

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