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New report reveals ongoing crisis in Dorset NHS dentistry and recommends reform of how dental care is provided

by | Mar 2, 2023 | Healthwatch Dorset, Local Healthwatch

Healthwatch Dorset, the county’s health and social care champion, has published a new report highlighting the ongoing difficulties people are experiencing accessing NHS dental care in Dorset, as they are across the country.

The report, titled Why are people finding it difficult to access NHS dental care in Dorset?, reveals that at the end of 2022 there were no NHS dentists in Dorset taking new adult patients and many dentists are now only accepting patients who can pay privately.

“We cannot afford to see a private dentist especially now with the cost of living spiralling. We need a dentist locally due to work for all of us and my daughter does not drive. What are we supposed to do?”

Healthwatch Dorset contacted all 95 dental practices that were listed on the NHS website to carry out a survey about dental provision in the county.

Two of the dentists are no longer practicing. Of the 78 dental practices that responded, none were taking new NHS adult patients, 17 now only treat private patients, and only 18 were accepting new NHS patients if they are children. Seven practices said they were accepting patients with additional needs, and 23 practices had waiting lists, half of which were over 12 months long.

The report also highlights how the lack of access to routine and urgent dental care is impacting on local people’s health and wellbeing. Many people who contact Healthwatch Dorset are suffering from ongoing pain and unresolved dental issues because they have not been able to access treatment through an NHS dentist or emergency dental hubs.

The report includes personal stories and comments from local people, illustrating the range of feedback about dentistry in Dorset.

Healthwatch Dorset is joining Healthwatch England’s call for a more rapid and radical reform of how dentistry is commissioned and provided, nationally and locally. They want to make sure that people are not excluded from dental services due to lack of local provision or difficulty meeting charges. Healthwatch Dorset also calls for better information and communication about dental care.

Louise Bate, Healthwatch Dorset Manager, said: “We are working with NHS Dorset to help inform their plans for improving access to NHS Dentistry and oral health across Dorset when they take over responsibility for commissioning local dental services in April. We’re also talking to local dental staff, public health colleagues, schools, health visitors working on oral health programmes, the local voluntary sector, community groups and local people to build a greater understanding of the issues. To share your story with us please get in touch at”

David Freeman, Chief Commissioning Officer, NHS Dorset Integrated Care Board, said that from 1 April “we will have a much greater opportunity to work with local people, dentists and other specialists in our area to develop new and different ways of working. We’ve started this work – from helping children and families with good dental hygiene to designing extra services to meet more complex dental needs, we are already developing plans for improvements over the coming year.

“NHS Dorset will be working closely with the existing dental regional team and dental clinical networks, who have developed the South West Dental Reform Programme. Recent developments that have been put in place in Dorset include a child-friendly dental pilot practice in the Wareham area, an additional 100 urgent care appointments every week across the county and a stabilisation programme with initially 30 appointments every week for people who do not have a regular dentist.

“We are grateful to Healthwatch Dorset for shining a light on these important issues and in a way that brings home the real impact on people’s lives. It is a vital report that demands our attention and we will use it alongside our new responsibilities to start the journey of improvements that we urgently need to see.”

Read the latest full report on the Healthwatch Dorset website. It follows on from Healthwatch Dorset’s previous report a year ago, Accessing dental care in Dorset, looking at what dental care is available and how people are affected by a lack of access to treatment.

Share your views and experiences of Dorset’s health and care services.

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