Local people suffering after difficulties getting an NHS dentist
People in Birmingham and Solihull face severe barriers to getting NHS dental treatment, an investigation into the experiences of over 800 local residents by Healthwatch Birmingham and Healthwatch Solihull reveals. Challenges such as lack of access, long waiting times for treatment, lack of information or clarity around NHS dental capacity in Birmingham and Solihull, affordability, and poor access to urgent and emergency dental care are leading some people to:
- Forgo or reduce much needed treatment.
- Access private dental care, which is often not affordable and has left some people in debt.
- Using A & E or frequently calling NHS 111 to access services.
The report How easy is it access NHS dentistry in Birmingham and Solihull? also portrays an NHS dental system under severe pressure from factors such as increased demand for NHS services, issues with funding and problems recruiting and retaining staff.
In response to these findings, the NHS England/Improvement Dental (West Midlands) Team and the Local Dental Committees for Birmingham and Solihull have committed to improvements including:
- Reviewing NHS dental capacity to identify areas of high need.
- Better communication with patients.
- Eradicating claims that ‘NHS patients are welcomed’ by dentists only offering patients private care.
‘Our investigation provides shocking evidence for the urgent need for a government review of NHS dental funding.
Current funding arrangements do not reflect the realities of the work dentists deliver and push up charges to levels that many patients cannot afford, exacerbating health inequalities in the process.
We acknowledge that there is a national crisis in NHS dentistry. However, our report shows that there are immediate actions that can be taken in Birmingham and Solihull. These include directing resources to areas with severe gaps in NHS dental services, and bearing down on unacceptable practices like dentists advertising for NHS patients and then trying to get them to go private.
Healthwatch Birmingham and Healthwatch Solihull will be working with NHS England/Improvement Dental (West Midlands) Team and the Local Dental Committees for Birmingham and Solihull to address these issues and hold them accountable for their progress towards ensuring that NHS dentistry is available for everyone who needs it.’
– Richard Burden, Chair, Healthwatch Birmingham and Healthwatch Solihull