Thousands of London children with oral pain are being taken by parents to pharmacies and non-dental health services, including A&E, instead of their dentist, and could be costing NHS England £2.3 million a year, according to research led by Queen Mary University of London.
The study of more than half of all of the pharmacies in London and nearly 7,000 parents finds that most pharmacy visits for children’s pain medications in London are to treat oral pain.
Lead researcher Dr Vanessa Muirhead said: “The fact that only 30 per cent of children with oral pain had seen a dentist before going to a pharmacy highlights a concerning underuse of dental services. Children with oral pain need to see a dentist for a definitive diagnosis and to treat any tooth decay. Not treating a decayed tooth can result in more pain, abscesses and possible damage to children’s permanent teeth.
“These children had not only failed to see a dentist before their pharmacy visit; they had seen GPs and a range of other health professionals outside dentistry. This inappropriate and overuse of multiple health services including A&E is costing the NHS a substantial amount of money at a time when reducing waste is a government priority.”
In this latest study, published in BMJ Open, 951 pharmacies collected information from 6,915 parents seeking pain medications for their children in November 2016 - January 2017, and found that: