Children face a year’s wait for hospital dental checks
WAITING times for children to see a dentist at the Hospital are at their highest level in five years, with some being forced to wait more than a year for an appointment.
The average waiting time for a child to see a hospital dentist is 63 weeks, while children needing to see an orthodontist face an average wait of 51 weeks, according to figures up to July this year.
By comparison, in 2012 children had to wait on average 16 weeks for a routine dental check-up at the Hospital and 17 weeks for an orthodontist check-up.
Today, the Health Department acknowledged that the current waiting times were ‘far from ideal’ and said that it was ‘pursuing options’ to resolve the issue.
However, it added that despite earmarking cash for the dental department next year, it was struggling to employ new dentists and dental nurses due to a shortage in the UK.
Children under the age of 11 receive a free appointment with a dentist at the Hospital’s community dental service as opposed to paying at a private clinic.
There are currently four dentists employed by the department, with only one employed full-time. The Health Department said as well as recruitment issues it also has ‘little success’ employing locum staff to try to deal with the problem on a temporary basis.
In Guernsey not every child is eligible for a free dentist appointment. Free appointments are given to children under the age of 18 who attend a special needs school or under 12s whose parents receive a supplementary benefit.
Children who have any active dental decay, suffer from a medical condition or sustain trauma whilst at school can also be seen at the dental service at Guernsey’s hospital. The current waiting time for routine cases in Guernsey is between one to two weeks.
Meanwhile, the figures up to July show that the average waiting time for adults to see a Hospital dentist has reduced over the last five years from an average wait of 15 weeks in 2012 to 13 in 2017.
And the adult waiting time to see an orthodontist has also dropped from an average waiting time of 73 weeks last year to 61. In comparison the average wait in 2012 was 16 weeks.
Jersey’s Health Department said that it was working to reduce the average waiting times for free dental care.
A spokesperson said: ‘The department acknowledges that the waiting times in the dental service are far from ideal and the department has been pursuing different options to try to reduce these waits. Recruitment into both dentist and dental nursing posts is very difficult to recruit to, this is in the UK as well as Jersey.
‘Any child considered to require an urgent appointment will be seen the same day or the next working day.
‘There is an investment proposal to increase the staff in the dental department during 2018.’
The department said it has advertised twice to recruit an additional orthodontic consultant. No-one applied the first time and the department said it is due to interview a single applicant following a second recruitment drive. It also said that over the last two years locum staff have been provided wherever possible to cover leave.