‘So much pain and so distressed’ – Otley woman speaks of dental woe

An Otley woman who claims she was struck off by her dentists while she was in an intensive care unit, has said it’s led to “the worst nightmare of my life”.

Mandy Sharp said she’d been left in “so much pain and so distressed”, because she’d been able to access so little dental treatment since.

In an emotional address to a panel of local councillors on Tuesday, Ms Sharp, from Otley, told how she’d lost almost all of her top teeth in the last two years and that “people look down on me”, because of her appearance.

She was later thanked for sharing her “heartbreaking” story and told she’d spoken for thousands of patients across Leeds.

A BBC investigation earlier this year found no NHS dentists in Leeds were taking on any new patients, amid a nationwide staff shortage.

Practices say “extreme difficulties” with recruitment remain, while Healthwatch says pregnant women are already desperately trying to register their unborn children at a practice because of the long waiting lists.

One Leeds dentist said has a waiting list of between 300 and 500 patients.

Speaking at a health scrutiny committee at Civic Hall on Tuesday, Ms Sharp told councillors: “I had a dentist appointment and then I had an emergency appointment (in hospital) because I had a tumour on the base of my spine, so I had to postpone one of my (dental) appointments.

“While I was in hospital in the intensive care unit (ICU), I got a letter telling me I’d been removed from the dental practice because I’d missed the appointment.”

Ms Sharp told how she’d had two emergency appointments with one dentist shortly afterwards, but that that practice had since closed down.

Despite her GP repeatedly writing to specialists in a bid to secure her an appointment, she’s still been left without any treatment.

She added: “Nobody can access a dentist in West Yorkshire, unless you’re sent 30 or 40 miles away.

“All you get told is ‘we’ll put you on a waiting list’. How long’s the waiting list? In Otley it’s 10 years!

“Two years ago I had a full set of teeth at the top, now I’ve got almost nothing.”

Explaining how self-conscious she’d become, she added: “People look down on me. I’m laughed at. I usually wear a mask.”

Ms Sharp, who has lived in Leeds for 10 years, one friend of hers recently pulled her own teeth out with a pair of pliers, because she was in so much pain while waiting for an appointment.

And she hit out at staff within the system for being “rude” as she tried to get an appointment.

“I was in so much pain and so distressed,” she added.

“The worst nightmare of my life. I wanted to throw myself out of my building.”

Stuart Morrison from Healthwatch Leeds, which represents patients, told the committee he was taking “daily calls” from people asking for help to find an NHS dentist.

“We’re having to  tell them that there are none or there are long waiting lists,” he said.

“The trend recently is the number of calls we’ve had from pregnant ladies and parents trying to get access for children.

“People are being told to go private by their NHS dentist or dental professionals, saying that’s their only real option.”

North Leeds dentist Munaf Qayyum said practices were struggling to replace staff who’d left the industry for other jobs during the pandemic.

Mr Qayyum, who also is chair of the Leeds local dental committee, said: “Practices are having extreme difficulty recruiting nurses and NHS practitioners.

“In Leeds generally there’s a lot of other jobs people can go for that don’t have as much stress or workload as working in an NHS practice.”

Mr Qayyuim said his practice had a waiting list of “300 to 500 patients”, but added, “I can only see about five to 10 new patients a week.”

Addressing Ms Sharp, the committee chair, Councillor Abigail Marshall-Katung, said: “Thank you very much for that heartbreaking story you’ve shared.

“I want to assure you you’re the voice of so many in the city. You’ve spoken for so many people today. It’s painful to hear.

“We’re sat round this table to try to find a way forward, because we don’t want anyone anywhere to go through what you’ve gone through.



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