"Emergency dental care in Newcastle"

About: Newcastle Dental Hospital Newcastle PCT / Emergency dental service

(as a relative),

My Daughter aged 29 has numerous complex medical conditions which have since childhood have meant that she has had to learn to manage high levels of pain, it has been remarked upon over the years that she has a very high pain thresh hold. So when she began complaining about toothache due to an interrupted wisdom tooth I knew the pain must be bad. She attended her local dentist in Newcastle who said that the offending tooth was the worst he had seen in terms of its position and the way in which it was displacing her jaw and trying to protrude through the side of her gum at a strange angle. He told her treatment would have to be carried out in hospital and that he would refer her as an emergency to Newcastle Dental Hospital. This was mid April 2011

. My daughter had asked me to come and stay with her in order to help her care for her baby boy and her 11 year old daughter who herself is classified with the highest level of disability and therefore requires more than average care on a daily basis. Through the night the pain my daughter was experiencing intensified to the point of being absolutely unbearable, due to her other medical conditions she is permanently on the highest dosage of codiene, we supplemented this with relevant dosages of paracetamol and ibuprofen staggered so as to try and build a pain wall, but nothing was reducing the pain from her tooth.

In desperation I took her the next morning to the Dental Hospital in Newcastle at 8:30am she waited for an hour or so and was told to return at 13:00 to be seen. When we returned she was seen by a junior dentist who examined the tooth administered local anesthesia and 'cleaned up' the tooth they told my daughter there was at least a 6-8 week waiting list before she would be seen for treatment. My daughter explained that she had attended her own dentist and that he had sent an emergency referral request, to which the junior dentist replied 'well turning up here wont help you jump the queue'. My daughter was devastated not only by this apparent rebuke or barbed accusation that she had somehow tried to manipulate the system, but at the prospect of having to endure the agony for another 2 months.

The dental hospital prescribed antibiotics that her own dentist had also advised her to take to prevent infection, however Jennifer explained that she was breast feeding and that her own dentist has said she would not be able to take them. The junior dentist ask if she could stop breast feeding for a while. However this 'while' would mean up to 2 months without any time to build up her milk supply. In my opinion this was adding insult to injury to my daughter who is passionate about the benefits of breast feeding and the thought of attempting to change to a bottle and formula milk with immediate effect left an already weary and vulnerable young mum in pain bereft of hope.

As she left the hospital she wept and begged me to just try to remove the tooth for her! Such was her state due to lack of sleep, pain, not being able to eat and the absolute lack of empathy she received from the hospital staff we saw.

Within a week of visiting the hospital my daughter’s face became even more swollen, and she developed an infection. I called the Dental hospital and spent the best part of the day trying to get some information about her referral. She did not exist on their System, no referral had been received and her attendance at the hospital was not on the 'system' I was told that 6-8 weeks was the waiting time not from the date of referral but from the date it was entered onto their 'system' and that could take a further 2 weeks as they were short staffed and were having alterations done to their offices and received hundreds of referrals every week. So we were now at the mercy of what sounded like an understaffed data entry system.

We revisited my daughters local dentist who could offer nothing in terms of treatment but said they would fax through and urgent referral, in the mean time with her pain increasing I began to phone everyone I could think of in search of the referral or to see if anyone else could help us. I left an answer phone message for the consultants secretary. Another week passed and I received a call back from a lady who said she had received my answer phone message but had no record of my daughter. No urgent referral had been received, I explained in detail my daughter’s situation but was again given what now sounded like the part line ' it would be at least 6-8 weeks once she was on the system'.

My daughter was becoming increasingly poorly loosing weight, not able to think clearly, care for herself or her children, and always the increasing pain. To everyone I spoke to I asked if there was anyone else who could help us, was there for example somewhere else that could treat her? I would take out a loan if I had to, but there again came a phrase which by now was beginning to sound scripted ' I cant comment on that' or 'I couldn't say'.

Eventually I managed to find a number which put me in touch with a lady from the Patients trust who set about helping me, however after all her efforts we were faced with the fact that my daughter’s referral from her dentist had been at last received and triaged by the consultant but deemed 'routine' by him and therefore she would not be seen until July and this was not for treatment but for assessment! I was told that the consultant can only base his triage on the piece of paper and the information it contains from the referring dentist. but my daughter had attended his hospital, I had explained in detail to his office the dire state she was in. How can you triage an emergency referral from a fellow practitioner as 'routine' without ever having seen the Patient? I was told it depends how your dentist words things.

So from her initial visit to her dentist in mid April to inevitable surgery required she will have lived in agony for the better part of 5-6 months. I don't know if you can imagine the impact of this on her children, her health and me as the carer now of all three. The absolute sense of dis-empowerment the tears her little girl to see her mum in such pain for so long.

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