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News / February 27, 2008

Patients forced to fork out for dental treatment

by Guy Hiscott

The lack of NHS practices in the North West is forcing dental patients to take out loans to pay for treatment, according to a city councillor.

Sinn Fein’s Billy Page says people are being forced to go private due to a lack of NHS dentists in the city and its surrounding areas.

In the North West, the only practice taking NHS patients who are not on benefits is L.D Flanagan in Dungiven.

All other dental practices in Derry, Strabane and Limavady have all closed their books to new NHS patients not on benefits and are now only seeing new patients on a private basis.

Greater Shantallow councillor Billy Page said: ‘You can get treatment in Derry but you will have to pay for it. You have people who haven’t been to their dentist for a while and when they try and book an appointment they find they have been struck off. I have had people on the phone to me in distress about this and they have found themselves having to take out loans to pay for treatment.

‘People are now travelling to Omagh and Enniskillen for NHS treatment. People without their own transport are finding themselves in a very difficult situation.’

The Sinn Fein councillor said that moves by the Western Health and Social Services Board to get more NHS dentists into the North West had failed.

‘The board feel as if they are hitting their heads off a brick wall. They have offered enticements to get dentists into the North West but they are not working. Six posts were advertised but were not filled’ he commented.

A spokesperson for the Western Health and Social Services Board said that efforts to recruit dentists were continuing.