A WINSFORD resident who was diagnosed with tongue cancer after being unable to access NHS dentistry has launched a campaign to improve local services.

Philip Carden faced ‘unacceptable barriers’ when trying to get an NHS dentist appointment within his hometown.

The 60-year-old was eventually diagnosed with cancer of the tongue following months of infection, pain and delay and does not want this to happen to anyone else.

This lack of accessibility locally pre-dated the Covid dentistry crisis as Philip had been unable to access NHS dentistry within Winsford prior to the first lockdown.

In the end, it was a doctor who saw Philip, after he was given no other option, other than travelling on 12 different buses to be seen by an NHS dentist.

Philip said: “I was trying to find a dentist in the town – I had broken my tooth and it hit my tongue.

“I went to the doctors and they saw me straight away.

“The doctor had a look and she was shocked, she said it looked like a tumour.

“I was very, very lucky.

“The doctors helped me out but it shouldn’t have been through them.”

Philip approached local councillor Mandy Clare to help him launch a public campaign, who took advice from the British Dental Association.

Councillor Clare said: “The UK Government must urgently address the NHS dentistry crisis for everyone and they must also ensure equality of access to those on low incomes.

“It’s not fair that being in a low income area means you are even less able to access NHS care within your own community – yet this is what national statistics indicate.

“On top of that, if you don’t have a car or much money, travelling to Crewe or Sandbach or even further afield is not always an option.

“If you’re in a job with less security and fewer rights, you can’t always take enough time off work to allow for the extra travel time required to attend appointments by public transport.”

“With undiagnosed mouth cancer, my resident was given the sole option of travelling on twelve separate buses from Winsford, in pain, just to be seen.

“This is completely unacceptable.”

Philip’s campaign currently has more than 380 signatures.

One comment on the online campaign reads: “I moved to Winsford in 2018 and I haven’t been able to get a dentist for my husband, me or my three children.”

Another resident said: “I’m not able to register my son anywhere locally.

“He is three, I keep ringing every month.”

Philip’s campaign asks the Government to:

  •  Share with the public an analysis of which communities are most likely to lack local NHS services, in order to show community accessibility problems across the income spectrum
  •  Address this as an equalities issue as well as a health emergency
  •  Take seriously and report to the public on the range of ways being on a low income translates into a compounding of existing health inequalities
  • Join the Scottish and Welsh Governments in enacting the Socio-Economic Duty.

To view the campaign and add your signature, visit change.org/p/conservative-government-help-us-fight-nhs-dentistry-access-and-inequality-gap.

An NHS spokesperson said: “Like all NHS services, dentistry has been extremely challenged throughout the Covid-19 pandemic with practices working hard to follow infection, prevention and control guidance set out nationally and resume face-to-face care as quickly as they can while ensuring the safety of patients and staff.

“We would ask the public to continue to come forward for care as normal and urge anyone with concerns or who has noticed changes inside their mouth such as a white or red patch, a lump or an ulcer that won’t heal and needs support, to contact their usual dental practice for advice.

“If they don’t have a usual dentist and have an urgent need they can contact the dental helpline on 0161 476 9651.”

Other symptoms of tongue or mouth cancer might include; a sore throat that doesn’t go away, pain when swallowing, numbness in the mouth that won’t go away, unexplained bleeding from the tongue, pain in the ear, unexplained and persistent lumps in the lymph glands in the neck, changes in your voice, teeth that become loose for no obvious reason, or difficulty moving your jaw.

Edward Timpson CBE MP has backed the campaign and urged the Government to prioritise NHS dentistry.

Winsford Guardian:

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Timpson said: “Good dental health is so important, but residents in Winsford in my constituency are finding it extremely difficult to access dentist services, leading, unfortunately, to some serious misdiagnoses, despite my having written to ministers, to NHS England and to the Care Quality Commission.

“Will my right hon. Friend find Government time to sink the Health Department’s teeth into a debate on NHS dentistry so that we can better understand what is stopping my constituents from being able to access dentistry services when they need them?”

Jacob William Rees-Mogg, leader of the House of Commons, replied: “His question is very important.

“The pandemic has had a significant effect on dentistry, and we continue to work on recovering NHS dental services.

“We are addressing regional shortages of dentists by working with the NHS to try to ensure that training place numbers are better aligned with the needs of local populations.

“NHS England and NHS Improvement are developing proposals for dental system reform, working closely with the Department of Health and Social Care and other interested parties.”