DENTAL services in Barnsley are on their ‘last legs’ as services struggle to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a health organisation.
Statistics from NHS Digital show a total of 142,319 courses of treatment were delivered to adults and children in the Barnsley area in the year to March.
It’s a dramatic increase on last year’s figures - which saw just over 50,000 treatments completed - but it’s still more than 30 per cent lower than the pre-pandemic figure of 216,856.
Separate figures show that in the two years to June, only 89,255 adults saw their local NHS dentist in the town - equating to less than half of Barnsley’s over-18 population.
It’s a dramatic drop from 52 per cent in the 24 months to June 2021, which saw dental activity hampered due to the Covid-19 pandemic for the first time.
It’s an even bigger drop from pre-pandemic levels of over 62 per cent in the two years to June 2019.
Just over half of Barnsley’s children - 27,263 - were seen by NHS dentists in the last year, compared to 68 per cent in 2019.
Eddie Crouch, chairman of the British Dental Association, said the latest figures show NHS dentistry is on the brink and in need of urgent change and support.
He added: “What we’re seeing isn’t a recovery, but a service on its last legs.
“The government will be fooling itself and millions of patients if it attempts to put a gloss on these figures.
“NHS dentistry is light years away from where it needs to be.
“Unless ministers step up and deliver much-needed reform and decent funding, this will remain the new normal.”
The latest data comes after British Dental Association analysis showed that across England, 91 per cent of all practices were not accepting new adult patients.
This figure rises even further to 98 per cent in Yorkshire and the Humber.
NHS Digital figures show there were 147 NHS dentists working in the Barnsley area in the year to March, meaning each one had the equivalent of more than 1,600 patients on their roster.
Government neglect was blamed for the town’s ‘hanging by a thread’ services earlier this year, prompting a joint call for action by Barnsley East MP Stephanie Peacock and Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis.
There are about 150 registered NHS dentists but the number has dropped by 21 per cent since the beginning of the pandemic, leading local leaders and the British Dental Association (BDA) to join forces in a bid to force change.
The town was revealed as one of the worst-hit areas in the country having lost more than a fifth of its dentists.
An NHS spokesperson said: “The latest data show dental services are recovering post-pandemic, with over 26 million patient treatments delivered last year up 120 per cent from the year before, along with 1.7 million more children getting seen by an NHS dentist.
“To further support the ongoing restoration of NHS dentistry, we recently announced the first significant changes to dentistry since 2006, helping practices to improve access for the patients that need dental care the most.”