This report examines the actions taken by local services to tackle the crisis in access to NHS dentistry.
Following a rise in feedback about problems with NHS dentistry, Healthwatch Birmingham and Healthwatch Solihull produced the joint investigation How easy is it to access NHS dentistry In Birmingham and Solihull? in July 2022. Over 800 local people told us about:
- Difficulties finding a dentist taking on NHS patients and offering NHS treatments including urgent and emergency dental care.
- Concerns that NHS dentists are orientated towards private care, with people being offered private treatment when seeking NHS dental care.
- Cost of treatment, both NHS and private, leading people to not seek treatment or reduce the frequency of visits or treatments.
NHS England (Midlands) has now informed us of a number of changes designed to address these issues, including:
- Agreement by seven practices to provide 386 additional sessions at weekends.
- More providers offering additional urgent access within 24 hours following referral from NHS111.
- Commissioning of additional services for vulnerable groups including homeless people.
The feedback we continue to receive from the public shows that the impact of these actions has yet to be felt by many local people. Responsibility for local NHS dentistry services was delegated to Birmingham and Solihull Integrated Care Board (NHS BSOL) in April 2023, who will need to accelerate the changes already underway and use the findings in our reports to deliver sustained and significant improvements to NHS dentistry in Birmingham and Solihull.