Healthwatch England's National Response to Dentistry Concerns

Healthwatch England response to National Dentistry Concerns
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At Healthwatch England, we have always been aware that there are parts of England where access to dental services was limited and people had real problems. We heard from Healthwatch in various parts of the country of people having to travel long distances or having to pay privately to see a dentist. See report from 2016 here - Access to NHS Dental Services: What people told local Healthwatch | Healthwatch

When increased safety precautions were introduced as part of the pandemic response, that had a huge impact on access. Although NHS England made emergency care a priority, many people who felt their issue was urgent found that they could not access treatment. Whereas previously we had only heard from some areas of the country, we started to hear about problems from all across England. See report here - Dentistry and the impact of COVID-19 | Healthwatch

We know that the dental contract has been a significant issue and we have raised this with both the Department of Health and Social Care and the Chief Dental Officer. As we wanted the Chief Dental Officer to hear the impact on people, we organised a webinar which included the opportunity for the Healthwatch network to share its concerns. We also arranged for local Healthwatch representatives to take part in a focus group on dental reform for NHS England.

In addition, we work with the Care Quality Commission through a Dental Reference Group where we share the insight we have received. The group includes a variety of people including regulators and dentists’ representatives. This is a good opportunity to provide examples of the stories behind the numbers of people finding problems accessing dental care. We also have supported the Chief Dental Officer’s Dental Reform Group which met in 2021.

In all our work on dentistry, we have ensured that politicians hear what we are being told. Sir Robert Francis, chair of Healthwatch England, has written to and met with the ministers responsible for dentistry. We have provided information for MPs who have asked parliamentary questions, including both the national picture and insight from their local area. We’ve shared our dentistry reports with MPs so that the issue stays on their agenda.

The importance of access to dentistry is now clearly on the agenda, but that needs to get translated into action. We will continue to use the insight provided by Healthwatch locally to make the case for improved access for dental services, including additional resources.

You can read our latest report on dentistry published in Dec 2021 here - 20211014_HWE Dentistry Update Dec 2021.pdf (

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