Recovery of NHS dental care ‘too slow’ says Healthwatch

The recovery of NHS dental care is not moving fast enough, causing particular worry over the health of children and young people.

This is according to the latest Healthwatch England report looking at access to NHS dentistry.

The watchdog said access to NHS dentistry is ‘one of the most significant issues’ raised by members of the public.

For example, since April 2020 nearly one in five people (19%) who contacted Healthwatch did so to discuss their views on dentistry.

This marks a fourfold increase on the previous period. Between April 2019 and March 2020, only one in 25 people (4%) had got in touch regarding dentistry.

Change in perception

They also report an increase in negative feedback – it doubled in the second quarter of 2021 (62%) when compared to the first (31%). In that same period, positive sentiment dropped by more than two thirds (7% to 2%).

Latest NHS data from 7 December 2021 found that out of 5,400 dental practices only:

  • 11% say they are now taking on new adult NHS patients
  • 12% report accepting charge-exempt adults
  • 17% say they are accepting children as NHS patients.

New themes the watchdog found include a lack of access to NHS dental care for children – they have heard more than 1.5 times more about children and NHS dentistry in the first six months of this financial year than the whole of the previous.

Lack of awareness

One piece of evidence read: ‘A primary school teacher in Blackpool told us that many parents struggle to find an NHS dentist for their children and cannot afford to go private. The consequence of this is that their children are often missing school due to tooth problems or abscesses.

‘The teacher also feels that there can be a lack of awareness and information about maintaining good oral health even among parents.’

You can read the full report here.

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