Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Healthwatch England have seen a significant increase in the number of people telling them about the problems they face when trying to get an NHS dentist appointment, suggesting the impact the pandemic has had on dentistry has been particularly acute.
What did people say?
Between July and September 2020, 1,313 people talked about their experiences of dentistry, compared to just 238 people in the previous three months. The issues raised covered:
- Access to dental care
- No routine care
- Limited NHS appointments
- Treatment still on hold
- Access to emergency treatment
- Lack of information
- Confusion about registration
- COVID-19 measures
What needs to change?
Looking at the issues people raised with us highlights four essential areas for improvement:
- Clearer information - NHS England and dentists need to provide more accurate and up-to-date information for patients.
- Patient registration - NHS England and dentists need to be clear that people don't register with a dentist in the same way as with a GP surgery. There is no guarantee of treatment at the same practice as a result.
- Access to care - The Government must make more resources available to dentists to help reduce the backlog caused by the pandemic.
- Affordability - The Government and the NHS should review the cost of NHS treatment, as many people struggle to pay the NHS charge, particularly as many people have less money as a result of the pandemic.