PEOPLE in need of urgent dental care have been unable to obtain NHS treatment due to a lack of space for new patients.

There have been a number of reports of residents in Mid Sussex being turned away from dentists because they do not have space for new NHS patients.

Rosemary Wheeler, 70, contacted The Argus to voice her concerns after both she and her husband John, 70, needed urgent treatment last year.

"My husband had to have his teeth removed and new dentures made. He was in a lot of pain and could not eat properly," said Mrs Wheeler.

The couple, from Dalewood Gardens, Burgess Hill, had lived in South Africa for 30 years and did not need a local dentist before 2020.

Mrs Wheeler asked more than 15 different practices if they would take her husband as an NHS patient but was told the same thing each time.

Due to the current guidelines from Public Health England, dentists are only able to receive funding from the government for a certain number of patients.

It appears that every practice in Burgess Hill, Hassocks, Haywards Heath and the surrounding areas has met this quota.

This means any new patients needing NHS treatment are placed on a waiting list.

However, The Argus found that nearly every practice said they would not be taking on new NHS patients any time soon and people are likely to have to wait for more than a year.

Mr Wheeler could not wait this long and was forced to pay for his treatment privately, costing over £650.

He was assured that the money could be claimed back due to his pension credit.

However, the couple later found out that this was not the case and they were unable to claim the money.

Mrs Wheeler said: "I, myself, have two broken teeth and a filling lost, but no dentists have space for me so they are just getting worse."

Her issues began in November 2020 and, although she was able to book an appointment for August 3, it was cancelled two weeks ago due to the dentist leaving the practice.

The NHS, which approves dentist allocation across England, said there had been no reduction in funding for NHS dental services in West Sussex.

However, since 2020 some dentists in West Sussex had chosen to end their contracts.

New temporary contracts have been offered to existing local dental practices to provide additional treatment sessions until longer term contracts can be put in place.

The Argus:

Mims Davies, MP for Mid Sussex, said: "I am aware that there are strong capacity constraints for NHS dental services in the Mid Sussex area, which has been raised with me by concerned constituents and exacerbated by the pandemic impact.

"I am keen to highlight this shortfall and I have made numerous approaches to NHS England, who contract dental services.

"They have assured me they are working on a plan to improve local availability and I will be keeping the pressure on demanding outcomes for Mid Sussex residents."

Mrs Davies said there were three practices in Sussex that currently have staffing levels for 49 additional hours for key treatment.

She said there were also an extra three dental surgery practices were in place in Brighton for urgent dental work.

Mrs Davies said a "procurement process" was also underway to try and improve the situation.

An NHS spokeswoman said: “Dentists have continued treating people who require urgent treatment throughout the pandemic and if someone is in need of urgent dental treatment they can call any dental practice to access this.

"Dentists continue to follow strict infection control guidance enabling patients to be seen in a Covid-secure way and this means they are able to treat fewer people than usual.

“While practices continue to prioritise patients with the highest need, and some also resuming routine appointments, people may be offered other courses of appropriate treatment, such as advice, and prescribing antibiotics to treat infection or analgesics to help relieve pain.”

Details of practices providing NHS dental care can be found on or by ringing 111.