A MOREDON mum has called for the dentistry system in Wiltshire for severely disabled people to be overhauled.

Sarah Purnell’s daughter, Caroline, has been waiting more than four months for an appointment with a specialist dentist at the Great Western Hospital.

Labelling the system “cruel”, she told the Adver: “I think it’s unacceptable. If you or I had toothache we would be seen within a week at our dentist’s surgery. These poor people have to wait six months or more, probably in pain and they can’t express themselves like we would do.”

Caroline, 35, who has severe learning difficulties, suffers frequent fits and cannot speak, was first seen by the community dentist in West Swindon in February.

Suspecting toothache, the dentist ordered an x-ray. However, because of Caroline’s disabilities, any dental procedure must be carried out under general anaesthetic. “She won’t keep her mouth open for them to do anything,” said Sarah, 61.

Under the current system, the community dentist refers patients to GWH. A clinic is run twice a month, where people can receive dental treatment under general anaesthetic.

However, Sarah says the referral process is currently being slowed down by a requirement for parents or carers to visit the hospital to fill in a series of health history and disclaimer forms – even if the patient has been seen by GWH dentists before.

She said: “If it’s a person who’s been seen in the dentistry department on numerous occasions, why do we need to go up to the hospital for that appointment. It’s just a form filling exercise. I think they should get rid of it.”

Sarah has reason to worry. Two years ago, Caroline had to wait more than six months to get an incisor removed.

“She was in pain for six months,” said Sarah. “Because she’s in pain and can’t talk she used to bite herself and pinch other people. That was her way of relieving the pain.”

The tooth was removed, but the habit of biting herself remained – so ingrained had it become: “I had to get a psychiatrist in to try and help me break the habit.”

Faced with the prospect of going through the same rigmarole, Sarah said: “I can’t cope with this. I can’t go months and months and it might be that she’s in pain again.”

She spoke to GWH clinical lead for dentistry, Alison Pink, telling her: “I don’t think the system is fit for purpose. What I want is an appointment for Caroline and the system to change.”

Sarah has called on NHS England, which commissions the service, to put on extra sessions for those with severe disabilities that mean dental work must be done under general anaesthetic, as well as the end to the form-filling appointment Sarah says is unnecessary.

She said of the system: “I almost think it’s cruel. When I think back to what she was like two-years-ago that was terrible. We’re going to have to go through that every time there’s a problem.”

A GWH spokeswoman said: “The wait times for procedures such as this have strict NHS guidelines that we follow. Our appointments are given in priority order, without breaching national guidelines.

“We run clinics regularly for dental treatment under anaesthetic, and always look to ensure patients are seen as quickly as possible.”