Survey reveals patients’ views on accessing NHS dentists

Dental patients will for the first time reveal the issues they have in accessing an NHS dentist.

Earlier this year, patients were invited to answer questions about dental appointments in the existing GP survey – their answers will be published tomorrow (1 July).

The survey draws on data for the fourth quarter of 2009/10.

The questions, regarding NHS dental services, were added to the annual NHS GP survey following successful trials with 12 PCTs last year.

The questions on dentistry in the survey were:
• When did you last try to get an NHS dental appointment for yourself?
• Last time you tried to get an NHS dental appointment, what type of appointment were you trying to get?
• Last time you tried to get an NHS dental appointment, was it with a dental practice you had previously visited for NHS dental care?
• Were you successful in getting an NHS dental appointment?
• (If relevant) Why haven’t you tried to get an NHS dental appointment in the last two years?

The Department of Health hope responses will help to inform estimates of future demand for NHS dentistry by establishing how many people report the unavailability of NHS dentistry as the main reason they’ve not tried to get an NHS appointment.

It will assess the proportion of each PCT’s population who have tried to get an NHS dental appointment as well as the percentage of those people who have been successful.

It’s important to note that only 30% (approximately) of patients will receive the dentistry questions; the remaining 70% will receive questions on care plan, as the patient survey is being split for this quarter.

The survey was piloted through a random telephone survey of 1,000 people in each of 12 PCTs in the summer of 2009.

It was shown to be effective in differentiating between PCTs in terms of people’s success
in being able to get an NHS dental appointment.

PCTs will continue to be measured on delivery of their planned increase against the current
Vital Sign (in terms of the number of patients accessing NHS dentistry over 24 months).

PCTs may, however, need to adjust their demand forecasts in the light of the results generated
by the new indicator to ensure that their demand estimates are sufficiently robust to
meet the dental access goal by March 2011.

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