75-year-old Malcolm Hipwell was told by NHS Plymouth that he would need to wait twelve months to have the treatment he needed carried out by an dentist on the NHS. Mr Hipwell required the removal of four teeth, so rather than wait he extended the overdraft facility on his bank account to pay for the £520 procedure to be performed by a private dental surgery.
Bosses at NHS Plymouth insisted that they were trying to reduce the waiting list for NHS dentists, but that emergency procedures can be carried out at their Dental Access Centre, usually within 48 hours.
Mr Hipwell maintained that the Dental Access Centre would not have been suitable for him; while they would have been able to extract the bad teeth, they would not then have provided him with the dentures he also needed.
“I started work at 14, I did two years’ national service and I was in the Post Office for 38 years,” he told BBC News. “All that time I paid, I paid and I paid and its absolutely disgusting there’s no facility now at my time of life to get this put right.”
NHS Plymouth said that 55% of the city’s population are currently registered with an NHS dentist and they are aiming to shorten the current waiting list. There are currently only 29 dental surgeries in the area that provide NHS dental treatment, though there are a couple of options if emergency treatment is needed. As well as the Dental Access Centre, the Peninsula Dental School also offers treatment from students at its Devonport training clinic, under supervision from teachers, and the school has a second base opening at Derriford Hospital in 2011.