The Isle of Wight's MP has written to the government's Health Secretary about a lack of NHS dentists and appointments.

Last month (February), the NHS told Islanders to be patient as dentists face a mammoth task to catch up with waiting lists made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some NHS patients said they had been forced to go private to get treatment.

And according to the MP, referrals for head and neck cancer have fallen because they are not being picked up at appointments.

The results of a review of services, carried out by Healthwatch, are due to be published in April. 

In February, the NHS told the County Press it is working on some additional funding to help practices provide appointments, to ensure there is more access for Isle of Wight patients. 

Dentists are now open, but an appointments backlog is growing and those with the most urgent needs are being prioritised.

The NHS told the County Press: "This means that patients needing routine dental care may have to wait longer for an appointment."

Isle of Wight County Press:

Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely

But it means some people - including children on the Island - have not be able to see their dentist for up to two years.

Bob Seely has written to the government, to set out the problems faced by Island residents and dentists.

Mr Seely told Health Secretary Matt Hancock that Islanders are unable to get NHS dentist appointments, resulting in many travelling to the mainland for treatment, with some children never having seen a dentist at all.

It is vital that Islanders have access to NHS dental care

Dental practices are facing problems due to a lack of trainees, funding and bureaucracy and a lack of trainees is likely due to high relocation costs, lower than average wages, and the additional GDC registration fee of £114.00 per year, said Mr Seely.

The MP told Mr Hancock that the situation has been made worse by dentists retiring, or leaving the Island.

Among a number of measures, he is calling for an Isle of Wight-based dental training, more funding for trainees, more support for laboratories and the removal of the need for patients to see an Isle of Wight NHS dentist before they can see an Isle of Wight orthodontist.

Mr Seely said: “Along with all other heath staff on the Island, I want to thank those involved with dentistry on the Island. This past year has been challenging and I am grateful to those dentists who have spoken to me about suggesting practical ways to improve the situation.

“It is vital that Islanders have access to NHS dental care, and ideally on the Island. A lack of dental care can lead to more serious problems including cancers, and I am concerned that head and neck cancer referrals were down by around 65 per cent last year.

“There are a number of issues that need to be addressed, some which are unique to the Island.

“I have made the Health Secretary aware of the situation we are in with regard to dentistry on the Island.

"Mr Hancock previously recognised that the Island is unique in terms of its health geography and that healthcare costs are likely increased here because we are separated from the mainland. This is another example of that.”