People are seeking out emergency dental care while attending Glastonbury because they can’t get appointments at home, according to the charity that runs the music festival’s medical care.
Festival Medical Services was founded at Glastonbury in 1979 and has organised the healthcare at every event on Worthy Farm since. It has set up several medical tents and pharmacies which deal mainly with minor ailments such as bruised ankles and heat exhaustion.
Chris Howes, the charity’s managing director, said many people were using its dental services. “We have a dental clinic here, and we did notice that there are a lot of people very early on after we opened who were turning up with dental problems.”
He said that emergency medical services had opened a month before the festival began for staff and construction workers setting up the facilities. “We’ve seen a lot of the site crew, people working here on the build, who haven’t had access to a dentist either because they don’t have one or they couldn’t get off to see someone,” Howes added.
“We don’t offer routine check-ups or teeth polishing or anything like that – it is emergency dentistry that we do.”
Although it has been reported that people have sought out GP appointments at Glastonbury because no doctor was available to see them at their own local surgery, this doesn’t seem to be the case. “That’s something I’ve been asked quite a bit,” Howes said. “I think it’s something we expected to happen but I think in reality we haven’t really seen that.”
He added that most of the cases seen by the charity were fairly minor. “They are enough to make you miserable and to want to sort it out, but they aren’t anything too desperate,” he said.
“I don’t think we’ve seen a lot of people with chronic conditions like diabetes or heart disease who have not been able to be looked after at home and come here to be monitored,” Howes said.
In the early days of the festival there were midwives on the team and it was not uncommon for babies to be born there, but now women who go into labour are rapidly transferred to the nearest maternity unit.
Medical staff have also noticed an influx of health issues related to the hotter and drier weather at the festival in recent years.
On Saturday temperatures soared to about 27C, with sunny conditions predicted for the remainder of the event. “I think so much of what we see is weather related. For example in conditions like this when it’s hot and dry and has been for quite a while we get a lot of dust-related things – asthma attacks, sore eyes, things like that,” said Howes.
He added: “We get quite a number of fractures because when you fall on hard ground you’re more likely to break something compared with if you fall in six inches of mud. It’s very climate related – if it’s very muddy and the ground is very soft we tend to see fewer fractures and more sprains.”
Many of the charity’s clinical volunteers come from an NHS background and are able to treat a high number of the patients seen on site.
The charity expects to treat between 4,000 and 5,000 patients at the festival this year.