More than 100 people in Reading have called for the council to take action amid claims the town is becoming an ‘NHS dentist desert’.

The Reading Green Party launched a petition in the summer calling for the council to push for the government and health authorities to act as patients are being ‘left in pain’.

People are entitled to free dental care if they are under 18, or under 19 and in education, are pregnant or have had a child in the past 12 months, and those who receive low-income benefits or NHS certificates.

Even when someone is able to get dental care from the NHS, charges will still apply, but at a lower rate than through private practitioners.

A list of dentists taking on new patients is on the ‘find a dentist’ NHS website service.

Of the 19 dentists listed on the site in Reading Borough, 10 are not accepting new patients, three are accepting new patients, two are only taking NHS patients referred by another dentist, and three have no update on whether they are taking patients or not.

The Green Party petition has received 171 signatures so far, in a mix of online and physical forms.

The petition was presented at a full Reading Borough Council meeting on Tuesday, October 17.

Green campaigner Kate Nikulina said: “Reading is a dental desert. Too many Reading residents can’t get an NHS dentist.

“People are left in pain or if they can afford it having to pay a large private dental bill in a cost of living crisis.

“Children and others entitled to free dental care aren’t able to get it.

“This Conservative government has been asleep at the wheel over NHS dentistry.

“We want Reading Council to lobby the Integrated Care Board and the government to come up with a plan to tackle the dental desert that Reading has become.”

Ruth McEwan, lead councillor for public health, acknowledged that there is a shortage, stating the council is working with the integrated care board (ICB) which is in charge of commissioning NHS services in the area.

Reading Chronicle: Councillor Ruth McEwan (Labour, Church). Credit: Reading LabourCouncillor Ruth McEwan (Labour, Church). Credit: Reading Labour

Cllr McEwan (Labour, Church) said: “We have recently received a report from the ICB commissioners that set out the current challenges facing the commissioners of dental care and practitioners as they manage the recovery from the pandemic, the surging demand for their services and a complex payment system which is discouraging to those considering entering as a dentist into the national health service.

“Much of this is beyond the powers of the council to affect directly.

“The council will continue to work with the Integrated Care Board to ensure dentistry provision is targeted based on the needs of our residents within the remit of our role.”