Recovery of NHS dental care too slow to help thousands left in pain

Lack of access to NHS dentistry has intensified as an issue for people over the last 18 months - issue decision-makers must react to now, to protect our health.
Woman having dental treatment

Access to NHS dentistry has been one of the most significant issues people have raised with us over the last 18 months. Not only have we seen a large increase in the volume of feedback and a huge increase in the amount of negative sentiment in our evidence, but, more strikingly, we have noted a continuation of this trend over time.   

These issues are not occurring in Wigan and Leigh. People in every corner of Greater Manchester and England are struggling to get the dental treatment they need when they need it.

And that is why Healthwatch is calling on the Government and NHS England to speed up dental contract reform and provide significant and sustained funding to tackle the underlying problems of dental access and affordability.

  • Four in five people report struggling to access NHS dental care, including emergency treatment.   

  • Positive sentiment, which was around 30%  before the COVID-19 pandemic, is down to its lowest ever level – at just two per cent. 

  • Some dental practices have either shut down or have gone fully private. Some dentists have used up their total NHS capacity and are asking people for private fees instead.  

  • Many people find it hard to get up-to-date information about which practices are taking on new patients because NHS and dentists’ websites aren’t updated regularly. As a result, more people are contacting their local Healthwatch hoping that they’d provide them with accurate information.   

  • It is often the most vulnerable people in our society, including children, disabled people and those living in care homes, who are suffering the most. 

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