Press Release: Healthwatch warns of broken dental system

Today, Healthwatch Brighton and Hove launches its report "Accessing dental services under COVID-19".
  • People in dental pain and distress are finding it difficult to get help.
  • People are being encouraged to get help by paying as private patients.
  • Advice and information on dental care is confusing, and often inaccurate and misleading.
  • Dentists are struggling to provide services, cope personally and survive commercially.

Our report has been picked up by local press

"Locally and nationally dental concerns are second only to COVID as issues raised with Healthwatch by the public. Some dentists in our City are providing an outstanding service and the last thing we want to do is to criticise them. But for many people the reality has been of living with pain, dental distress and not knowing where to go for help. We have escalated these issues nationally and to NHS leaders in Sussex; Our MPs have asked questions in Parliament and we meet regularly with local dentists and NHS England. But so far there is no clear path to a better future for dental care. People cannot find a dentist when they need one; serious dental issues like mouth cancers are not being identified. Dentists are finding their contract arrangements difficult. The system is simply broken and needs radical reform.”
— David Liley, CEO, Healthwatch Brighton and Hove

NHS Dental Contract Reform and Arrangements

Coinciding with our report, on 29th March, the NHS released a letter to all NHS dental contract holders which provides an update on NHS Dental Contract Reform and Arrangements. 

The dental contract has been a difficult issue since it was introduced with Healthwatch - along with many other stakeholders - saying that it caused and exacerbated problems with access to services.

There has been some work taking place to look at different 'prototypes' and NHS England (NHSE) will look at the next stage of development.

There are six aims with the work that NHSE will do and Healthwatch is clear that all of these must apply. Points 4 and 5, in particular, respond to what we have been hearing from you especially since the disruption caused by COVID-19.

Contract changes must:

1. Be designed with the support of the dental profession

2. Improve oral health outcomes

3. Increase incentives to undertake preventive dentistry, prioritise evidence based care for patients with the most needs, and reduce incentives to deliver care that is of low clinical value

4. Improve patient access to NHS care, with a specific focus on addressing inequalities, particularly deprivation and ethnicity

5. Demonstrate that patients are not having to pay privately for dental care that was previously commissioned NHS dental care

6. Be affordable within NHS resources made available by Government.

This is only the start of the process - and Healthwatch will continue to monitor and escalate your concerns.

If you've ever wondered what we do with your insight, this is it, so thank you for all you've shared and do keep sharing your experiences with us.  The information you have provided so far has been vital. 

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