Dentistry commissioning is complicated. Historically NHS contracts with dentists have made it difficult to deliver just NHS work. We recognise that dental practices have limited capacity because of the need to follow rigorous infection control measures to keep us all safe. This means treatment is currently being prioritised according to need. However, the volume of insight and detail of experience we are hearing suggests that availability of NHS treatment is patch, both before Lockdown and since.
We’ve provided a briefing to system leaders and we will be discussing peoples’ experiences at the dental committee later this month. All local Healthwatch in Sussex (led by West Sussex) are co-ordinating our work on dentistry across Sussex going forwards. We’ve called for a wider-system discussion to plan and collaborate for the future.
Added to peoples’ stories are our mystery shopping findings, which show there are examples of poor quality, inconsistent, out of date and inaccurate information found on dentist phone messages and websites (including NHS Find a Dentist) which give us concern about the quality of communication with the public. We believe this is an easy problem to solve, and we’ve produced a supportive checklist in partnership with the Local Dental Committee.
This insight also demonstrates the impact that a reduced service in dental practices (in order to deliver a safe environment for patients and staff) is having on people. We appreciate this is not just a local issue, but a national one.