Problems finding an NHS Dentist? National Evidence Review from local Healthwatch published

November 24, 2016

dentist-iconHealthwatch England has published a new national evidence review on Dentistry, with local Healthwatch helping to raise awareness of people’s experiences.

  • Since local Healthwatch were established, people’s concerns around dental services have been one the most common issues raised with national champion Healthwatch England.
  • New evidence review pulls together people’s experiences gathered, analysed and reported by 31 selected local Healthwatch over the last two years.
  • Those struggling to access care include – care home residents, those who only go to the dentist when something is wrong and people living in areas where commissioning has not adapted to meet changes in demand.

You can read more and access the full report at:
National surveys suggest that the majority of those who want an NHS dentist are able to get an appointment when they need one and are happy with the service they receive – often leaving positive comments with local Healthwatch review sites and on NHS Choices.
Yet from Barnet to Bradford and Kent to Cornwall, local Healthwatch also hear from those whose voices are not often reflected through polling, revealing a range of areas for improvement.
Access to NHS Dental Services: What people told local Healthwatch, published today, brings together findings by 31 local Healthwatch across the country, identifying three groups of people in particular struggling to get the dental care they need:

  • People who may find it difficult to access high street dentists, such as care home residents.
  • People who don’t think they need to go to the dentist or only go when they have a problem – often because they are nervous about seeing the dentist, find it too expensive, or just don’t see the need to.
  • People living in areas where commissioning of NHS treatment has not kept up with changes in demand – e.g. as a result of rapid population growth or demographic change.

For example, a ‘mystery shopper’ exercise conducted by two Healthwatch in September 2016 across the whole of West Yorkshire identified only two practices accepting new patients. Similarly a review conducted by Healthwatch Bolton in 2015 found that care home residents were more likely to see a hairdresser than to be able to access a dentist.
However, the Healthwatch network is helping to drive improvements. In Shropshire feedback provided by the local Healthwatch has led to NHS England approving additional resources to treat 857 more patients across three local dental surgeries. Similar initiatives have also been provisionally agreed in Leicester and in Kirklees and Bradford.
Commenting on the report, Interim Chair of Healthwatch England, Jane Mordue said:
“National polling suggests that for most people getting an NHS dentist is pretty straight forward.
“Yet at a local level Healthwatch are uncovering areas where things are not so clear cut, identifying crucial gaps that are leaving patients, in some cases very vulnerable people, without access to the care they need.
“The Government’s new dental contract, with its focus on prevention, looks promising but there is much that could be done right now to help. This could include better information for people about how often they should be going to the dentist, and introducing a more flexible approach to local commissioning so that care can be adjusted to meet demand.
“Above all, where local Healthwatch and the NHS work together we are starting to see the signs of progress, including commitments to increase the numbers of appointments and the opening of new surgeries in badly affected areas. It’s time that these plans were put into action to ensure everyone can get the care they need.”

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