02 Jun

Dental staff report increase in abuse as patients struggle to get appointments

Dental staff have reported an increase in abuse, as patients struggle to get appointments.

A dental worker based at a practice in Ipswich described the situation as “soul destroying” and pleaded with patients to try to be understanding and compassionate. Nicky Hazelwood, a member of staff at a busy practice in Ipswich, said that her team is receiving abuse on a daily basis. In recent weeks, it has become worse, as more and more people try to get appointments to see a dentist. 

Ms Hazelwood said that patients are seeing that practices are open and assuming that they are running normally but there are still stringent restrictions in place, which limit numbers. Teams are not only trying to tackle backlogs, which have amassed in the last 14 months, but they are also working tirelessly to provide emergency treatment, complete courses of treatment that were disrupted due to the pandemic and field calls and queries from patients. 

Dental workers have reported incidents including patients shouting, screaming and swearing over the telephone and there has been a surge in complaints because patients are not happy with having to wait for an appointment.

Millions of dental appointments were cancelled as a result of the first lockdown and subsequent restrictions, which reduced capacity significantly. Practices are still working with limits in place to keep staff and patients safe and the demand is simply outweighing the supply. 

At present, most practice teams are still prioritising urgent care and patients who need complex or emergency treatment with some also seeing children as a priority. It could be some time before routine services resume and dental professionals are urging people to be patient and to try and be kind to staff who have been working under intense pressure for several months. All dentists are doing their best to clear backlogs and make appointments available and they are dealing with unprecedented challenges.