There is a dental care crisis in York – with some patients in pain and in need of urgent treatment being told to travel to Scarborough, according to health campaigners.

And many residents have been waiting more than two years to register with an NHS dentist, says independent group Healthwatch.

Since April 1 anyone who needs emergency dental care and is not registered with a dentist, or whose dentist is closed, must call NHS 111.


But Healthwatch says there are problems with getting an appointment in York.

And that patients in pain have been asked to travel to Scarborough for treatment.

A spokesperson for the organisation said:

  • We are more concerned now than we were in 2018. We are hearing from the public that it is hard to access urgent dental care.

    There is a problem with availability of appointments in York, and with NHS 111 call handlers understanding local geography.

    For instance, we have examples of York residents being offered urgent dental appointments in Scarborough.

    There appears to be no understanding of the travel or financial challenges this can lead to.

System does not work

Photograph: Quang Tri Nguyen / Unsplash
Healthwatch says the system does not work for a city where there are not enough dentists and is calling for action: “The dental care crisis in York is a consequence of national policy,” it states.

“There is an urgent need to review the provision of NHS dentistry in York, and how effective the current urgent care system is for a city without enough dentists.

“Whilst we have received many reassurances that this is taken seriously, what we want to see is action, not words.”


A spokesperson for the British Dental Association said funding cuts have hit dentistry and mean patients have to wait longer or travel further for treatment. They said:

  • It’s scandalous that patients in York are now facing over a 40 mile journey [to Scarborough] simply to access NHS dental care.

Dentists leaving in droves

They added that morale among dentists is “at an all-time low” and that a survey by the association found that three in five dentists plan to reduce or leave NHS work during the next five years.

And they warned that the problem has an impact on other health services – with about 135,000 dental patients going to A&E nationally each year and a further 600,000 going to the GP because they cannot get a dentist appointment.

At the time of the changes to urgent dental care, NHS England said patients only have to make one phone call to 111 and that the change will “result in a more equitable distribution of urgent care provision across Yorkshire and the Humber and will demonstrate that there is a consistent approach”.

They said demand will reduce in future as people are able to access emergency care through their regular dentist. NHS England was approached for a comment.