We are sharing what local Healthwatch are hearing from patients to help dental professionals better understand people's experiences and help inform how NHS dental care is provided and paid for in the future.
Helping commissioners to adjust to changing levels of demand
Local Healthwatch can make a real difference by working with dentists and regional NHS England teams to identify areas where current commissioning arrangements have not been flexible enough to meet sudden changes in need.
Improve patient education and information about dentistry
We all need to take responsibility for public education regarding oral health, with national bodies and local networks working together effectively. Patients must understand why visiting the dentist is important and receive clear, consistent information about the treatments they can get and the costs they need to pay. They also need to receive clear messages about how often they should be re-attending, based on their individual oral health needs.
Explore the access issues for those in care homes
We know that primary care dental services and care homes are regulated separately - meaning that neither set of inspectors would necessarily ask questions about the oral health of people living in care homes. We will work with the CQC to ensure that the oral health needs of people in care homes do not fall through regulatory cracks.
We will also encourage local Healthwatch to monitor care home dental provision in their areas. For example, we will provide them with specific questions to ask about access to dentistry when visiting care homes, and to find out more about how dental practices meet the needs of vulnerable patients.
Help patients resolve issues more quickly when care goes wrong
As part of the Regulation of Dental Services Programme Board we have developed a shared understanding of complaints handling that can be used by providers, commissioners, regulators and local Healthwatch to ensure we are all clear on where complaints should go and whose responsibility they are. We hope that dentists find this of use when reviewing their own patient information materials.