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Damning Healthwatch Hackney report triggers dental care probe

08/02/2018

A damning new Healthwatch Hackney report on problems at a local specialist dental service for vulnerable residents has prompted an investigation.

NHS England has agreed to investigate why severely disabled children were unable to get appointments at the service based at St Leonard’s Hospital.

All the cases highlighted in our report involved children unable to receive treatment at a high street dentist because of a medical condition, autism or a severe learning disability.

Parents told us that when they phoned to make appointments they struggled to get put through.

Callers who did get through were told there was a substantial backlog of patients and that dentists were only offering emergency appointments.

Amanda Elliot, of Healthwatch Hackney, said: ‘These patients are children with the most complex needs, who cannot articulate pain or distress to their care-givers in a typical way.

‘Without access to adequate dental care, these children are likely to experience long-term problems with their oral health on top of their existing health challenges.’

Around 500 disabled children in Hackney benefit from the service, which also provides special dental care to vulnerable adults and patients who are homeless or who have substance misuse problems.

The access problems appear to date back to April 2017 when the contract for running the specialist service moved from Barts NHS Trust to a community trust in Kent.

NHS England told us that the problems had arisen from a backlog of cases inherited by the trust when it took over in April.

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