In May this year, we joined in with Healthwatch England's campaign to highlight the difficulties people are having accessing NHS dentistry. Unfortunately, this continues to be an issue for many people and it is something we are still raising with the regional dentistry team at NHS England. They have assured us that they are working with dentists to ensure the most urgent case are seen and to improve access as COVID-19 restrictions relax.
In the meantime, we have been giving people this advice:
An open letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer
Healthwatch England has co-signed an open letter addressed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak calling for a recovery plan for NHS dentistry.
They have supported the British Dental Association in calling on the Chancellor to use the forthcoming Spending Review to provide vital investment in NHS dentistry.
The letter was further supported by a letter to the Treasury from a cross-party group of MPs.
Read the open letter from Sir Robert Francis QC, chair of Healthwatch England, and BDA chair Eddie Crouch.
Dental care for all who need it
Over the course of the pandemic, all Healthwatch heard from patients up and down the country unable to find care for themselves and their children, leaving them in pain and taking matters into their own hands.
- From April to June 2021 public feedback was up 55% on the previous three months, and 794% higher when compared with the same period in 2020.
- Nearly four in five people (79%) of those sharing their stories said they had found it difficult to access timely care.
We are very worried that NHS dental care risks “vanishing into the void” as limited funds mean that dentists are struggling to offer services to all that need them, hitting people on low incomes hardest.
Patients deserve a well-funded system that delivers dental care for all those who need it.
Healthwatch England chair Sir Robert Francis QC said:
“Lack of access to NHS dentistry has exploded as an issue for people over the last year, with both the volume of feedback and negative sentiment going through the roof.
“We’ve heard from patients up and down the country unable to find care, leaving them in pain and taking matters into their own hands.
“We’ve also heard from parents unable to register their children with an NHS dentist, as local dental practices weren’t taking on new patients, had gone private or had closed down.
“Every part of the country is facing a dental care crisis, with NHS dentistry at risk of vanishing into the void.
“The Government needs to use the forthcoming spending review to provide vital investment in services like dentistry that help keep us all healthy and ensure we build back better for current and future generations.”
Eddie Crouch, chair of the British Dental Association said: “In the last spending review ministers chose to make patients pay more into NHS dentistry, so they could pay less.
“These charges are now a substitute for decent state investment, with no attempt to even try and keep pace with demand or inflation.
“Ministers have pledged reform. Simply telling dentists to do more with less will not provide the care our patients desperately need.”