Around Christmas a story appeared in the Times about a Stan Brock, a philanthropist who wants to set up huge temporary clinics in sites like Wembley Stadium to give the poor free dental and eye care.
Brock, 82, has done it hundreds of times in underdeveloped parts of the world via his charity Remote Area Medical (RAM), but most of its free care is now doled out in the world’s richest country, the US.
The former wildlife TV presenter and cowboy thinks his native Britain could use his army of volunteer dentists and eye doctors because millions of Brits have no local dentist willing to take on new NHS patients.
As the Times reports: “There are 24 local authorities in which every dentist is taking on only private patients, with stories of people resorting to pulling their own teeth out, drugged up on alcohol and over-the-counter painkillers.”
Brock proposes taking over large buildings to stage events where thousands of people can access free dental care and eye examinations. A typical RAM clinic in Baltimore processed 1,234 patients in two days when a giant convention centre was filled with 100 dental chairs; 1,842 teeth were extracted, 433 patients had eye examinations and 398 of them got free prescription glasses.
Many commentators in the US get angry when they see whole families queue in the rain overnight for a chance for Brock’s free dental care, and want to know why US citizens need emergency healthcare services designed for remote third world communities like the Wapishana in the Upper Amazon, where Brock was a cowboy in the 1950s.
His latest proposition has been met with the same anger. In a letter to the Times the chairman of general practice at the BDA Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen wrote: “…the solution to the NHS dental access crisis in England is not turning Webley Stadium into a giant pop-up clinic. The UK model depends on decent policies, not kind-hearted citizens. Sadly in Yorkshire charities are already providing care that the NHS could and should provide, as ministers fail to fix a broken system that effectively caps the number of patients we can treat. We need resources and reform, not a ‘Big Society’ approach to dental care.”
In light of the fact that “resources and reform” are almost certainly not on the way for the foreseeable future, what do you think?
Happy new year