QUEUES are reported to have formed from as early as 4am at a NHS dental practice in Leigh, leaving exasperated patients in "disbelief".

With more than 2,000 dentists leaving the NHS in 2021 and a BBC survey revealing that 90 percent of all NHS dental practices were not accepting new adult patients in 2022, concerns about NHS dentistry have been rising for a number of years.

These concerns have been echoed in Leigh as patient lists have become so overcrowded that people have been queueing for hours in order to be seen by a dentist.

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Leigh Journal: Patient lists have become extremely overcrowded at NHS dentistsPatient lists have become extremely overcrowded at NHS dentists (Image: PA)

Like many other NHS practices, the Avenue Dental Centre in Leigh town centre offers appointments to all NHS patients on a first-come-first-serve basis.

However, as appointments for NHS patients are often very limited, daily queues have been reported to form outside The Avenue practice from as early as 4am.

As this inevitably leaves patients missing out on appointments and deteriorating oral health, it has also intensified the stress levels for those who do not have the time to queue up for hours in the morning.

The Avenue situation has been experienced by a Leigh mum-of-one, who said she needs to receive regular dental treatment as her Chron's Disease often impacts her teeth and gums.

With a child that she needs to get to school, the mum has often had to resort to paying for taxis to travel to an emergency dentist for her necessary treatment.

Leigh Journal: Queues have been reported from as early as 4am at the AvenueQueues have been reported from as early as 4am at the Avenue (Image: Contributed)

Emphasising that she doesn't place the blame for this situation on the individual dentists, the mum said: "The people working in the NHS are trying their hardest.

"But in this country, people should not be camping outside a dentist at 4am on camp chairs just to get on the NHS patient list, it’s wrong.

"Dental treatment is just as important at the end of the day as other health issues and I’m just in disbelief that this is where we are at.

"I wasn’t expecting to be added to waiting lists that are two years long and to be within a chance of being seen, I need to camp outside.

"I also have a child that I have to take to school, so waiting outside for hours isn’t an option for me, it’s a mess."

Leigh Journal: Dentist practices have signed up to a scheme to offer more NHS appointmentsDentist practices have signed up to a scheme to offer more NHS appointments (Image: PA)

With the problems within NHS dentistry affecting patients across the country, 13 borough practices have signed up to a new scheme in an attempt to offer more NHS appointments and alleviate the waiting lists at NHS practices.

Ben Squires, Head of Primary Care for Greater Manchester said: “We are working with local dentists to enable practices to take on more NHS patients.

"Thirteen dental practices in Wigan have signed-up to a Greater Manchester scheme, launched at the beginning of June 2023 to commit to taking on new patients.

"This has already resulted in 2,769 new patients in Wigan being seen and 2,122 appointments for patients who needed urgent dental care.

“It’s important to note that patients are not registered with a dentist in the same way as they are with a GP. So, if you need a check-up or dental treatment, you can register with a practice outside your local community.

"To find a dental practice, go to this website. If you know you will not be able to attend an appointment, then please give as much notice as possible to the dental surgery so they can cancel your appointment and offer your slot to another patient.

"If someone who is not registered with an NHS dentist or has a dental emergency and their regular dentist is closed, you call the Greater Manchester Urgent Dental Care Service on 0333 332 3800.”