Wide variation in use of NHS dentists

People in Great Yarmouth and Waveney are three times as likely to see an NHS dentist as their counterparts in Kensington and Chelsea, says a report out today from The NHS Information Centre.

NHS Dental Statistics for England 2009/10 brings together quarterly information on dental activity in England for the year 2009/10.

It also includes latest figures on the number of patients seen by an NHS dentist for the first quarter of 2010/11.

The report shows that NHS dentists saw a higher number of patients in each of the 24-month periods ending in December 2009, March 2010 and June 2010 than they did in the 24-month period ending in March 2006, when the revised contracts for NHS dentists were introduced.

In the two-year period ending June 2010, a total of 28.5 million patients were seen by an NHS dentist.

This is an increase of 376,000 on the two-year period up to the introduction of the new contracts.

The percentage of people seen by an NHS dentist in the two years to June 2010 was 55.4%.

However, although this percentage has risen each quarter since June 2008, it remains slightly below the March 2006 level of 55.8%.

The report also highlights wide variation across primary care trusts (PCTs) in the percentage of patients seeing an NHS dentist.

Whereas 76.9% of people in the Great Yarmouth and Waveney PCT area had seen an NHS dentist in the two-year period ending June 2010, fewer than 24% of people had in Kensington and Chelsea PCT area. 

The areas with the lowest percentage of people who saw an NHS dentist were:

  • Kensington and Chelsea (23.8%)
  • Richmond and Twickenham (33.9%)
  • Buckinghamshire (41.2%)
  • West Kent (41.8%) and
  • City and Hackney (41.9%)

The areas with the highest percentage of people who saw an NHS dentist were:
• Great Yarmouth and Waveney (76.9%)
Doncaster (73.2%)
Middlesbrough (72.4%)
Hull (71.8%)
• Western Cheshire (71.3%)

The report also shows:

  • More complex, band 3 treatments carried out by dentists increased by 12.2 per cent in 2009/10. This compared with a 2.7 per cent increase in simpler band 1 treatments.
  • The percentage of female dentists continues to rise each year since 2006/07, from 38.8 per cent in 2006/07 to 42.2 per cent in 2009/10. 54.1 per cent of dentists aged under-35 are female.

NHS Information Centre chief executive Tim Straughan said: “The report provides a detailed picture of the way NHS dental services are being delivered on the ground and how they are changing over time.

“It highlights a wide regional variation in the use of community NHS dental services and a continued increase in the overall number of people seeing an NHS dentist.”

The report is at www.ic.nhs.uk/pubs/dentalstats0910

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