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  • Writer's pictureHealthwatch Wokingham

Accessing dental care across Wokingham Borough - the latest

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

It's no surprise that access to NHS dental care continues to be a significant issue locally and nationally.

In early March, Healthwatch England submitted dentistry feedback from Healthwatch groups across the UK to an ongoing parliamentary inquiry run by the Health and Social Care Committee, on the state of NHS dentistry, following a survey that showed 90% of dental practices across the UK are not accepting new adult NHS patients.

MPs frequently use Healthwatch groups' feedback in debates in the House of Commons and Westminster Hall to highlight the scale of the problem and the impact on individual people.

On April 27th, Steve Brine MP, and Health and Social Care Committee Chair spoke at the Reforms to NHS Dentistry debate in parliament on the dentistry crisis, and the feedback from Healthwatch groups across the UK. Steve Brine MP said:

“One of the many submissions that the Committee received talked about people extracting their own teeth with pliers, something that should not happen in the 21st century. The problem is particularly acute in some areas of the country—we will hear talk today about dental deserts, I am sure—and among some groups of people, but challenges and capacity issues are experienced across the board.

Our inquiry received a wide range of written evidence, including from nearly 30 local Healthwatch groups. We also held two detailed oral evidence sessions examining the problem and, of course, potential solutions. We heard from Healthwatch that the majority of complaints that it receives at the moment are about dentistry.

Day in, day out, local Healthwatch groups receive emails and calls about problems accessing an NHS dentist. That is reflected in other evidence that we received; I know it is not easy for some to hear this, but as a Select Committee Chair, I can only follow the evidence that I receive. We have also heard again and again about the challenge of recruiting and retaining NHS dentists.”

What is Healthwatch England calling for in dentistry?

  1. A more rapid and radical reform of how dentistry is commissioned and provided – recognising that the current arrangements do not meet the needs of many people who cannot access NHS dental care in a timely way and acknowledging issues faced by the dental profession.

  2. Using the commissioning reform to tackle the twin crises of access and affordability – ensuring that people are not excluded from dental services because of lack of local provision or difficulty meeting charges. Currently, there are significant inequalities that must be tackled. New arrangements should be based on maximising access to NHS dental services, particularly reducing inequalities.

  3. Greater clarity in the information about NHS dentistry– improving information, including online, so that people have a clear picture of where and how they can access services, as well as the cost. The reform must address dentistry ‘registration’ which causes significant confusion for both services and patients.

  4. Look at using dental practices to support people’s general health – harnessing opportunities, like the development of Primary Care Networks, to link oral health to other key issues, such as weight management and smoking cessation.

What action is Healthwatch Wokingham Borough taking?

All the feedback you send us about your dental experiences across Wokingham Borough not only helps us to inform local NHS dentistry leaders, but also helps to make change nationally, as it gets sent to our national body Healthwatch England anonymously. We still want to know your views and experiences on local dental care, which you can share with us here.

Healthwatch Wokingham continues to engage with NHS England – South East Dental and NHS Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West Integrated Care Board (BOB ICB).

We have been given the latest dental information and advice from South East Dental on what to do if you or your loved ones, including children, need dental care and can’t access an NHS dentist, just click here.

Your dentistry feedback is more important than ever; have your say, get your voice heard and we will do everything we can locally, and nationally with Healthwatch England, to keep dentistry top of the Government’s healthcare agenda.

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