Access to dental care in Hackney

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Summary of report content

Healthwatch Hackney undertook a review of access to NHS dentistry in order to collect information on services so that they could respond to enquiries they were receiving from the public. Between 1st of November and 23rd of December 2021 their staff and volunteers called the 27 dental surgeries in Hackney commissioned by the NHS, to identify the current services offered, whether they were accepting new NHS patients and the earliest date for a non-urgent routine appointment. They also reviewed information on the NHS find a dentist website and analysed 22 pieces of feedback about access to NHS dentistry received in November and December 2021.

Nearly three in five dental surgeries in Hackney were not ready to accept new NHS patients for non-urgent treatment because of the COVID-19 backlog and pressures on their services.  Nearly a third were accepting new NHS patients.

The waiting time for the first appointment varied from 2 weeks to one or two years.  Seven in ten surgeries were ready to accept new private patients and in some cases were able to see the new patient within a week.  Surgeries that were not able to see new or existing patients in a timely manner would signpost or refer them to NHS 111 or NHS Find a Dentist website

Most surgeries were able to offer urgent appointments the same or the next day to NHS patients already on their list after a telephone triage.  Most surgeries were prioritising urgent cases from their current patient list, both NHS and private. Some surgeries said that they received many calls from new patients unable to get treatment elsewhere. A dentist in one surgery said that a patient is accepted as being on their list if s/he had been with them for at least 2 years. Otherwise, patients could be removed and not classified as a patient of the surgery.

All surgeries were working regular working hours, however, two surgeries said that sometimes they extend the hours if there was an urgent case.

Healthwatch Hackney found from their review of the NHS find a dentist website, that out of 27 NHS dental practices in Hackney:

  • 81% (22/27) of surgeries investigated had not provided up to date information on the provision of care and treatment to new NHS patients i.e. within the last 90 days
  • 3 surgeries were not accepting any new NHS patients
  • 2 surgeries were only accepting patients after a referral, e.g. from 111

The key themes in their feedback were:

  • Many people continue to struggle to access NHS dental treatment or to afford private treatment. Lack of information or poor information on surgeries’ websites left people unsure if dentists are taking on new patients or offering routine care
  • Residents often contacted Healthwatch because they did not know which NHS dentists had started to do routine check-ups and/or if any were taking on new patients.
  • Pressure to go private: some patients have felt pressured to go private as dentists said that they could not provide NHS treatments but were able to do so if people were willing to pay private fees
  • Long waiting times. People are being asked to wait anywhere between a few months and three years to get an NHS appointment – some cannot even get on a waiting list
  • Unable to afford private treatment, leaving patients unable to see a dentist
  • Some patients have found that when they have tried to book a dental appointment, they have been removed from their practice list

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General details

Report title 
Access to dental care in Hackney
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch Hackney
Date of publication 
Monday, 21 February, 2022
Date evidence capture began 
Monday, 1 November, 2021
Date evidence capture finished 
Friday, 31 December, 2021
Key themes 
Booking appointments
Cost of services
Information providing
Service delivery organisation and staffing

Methodology and approach

Was the work undertaken at the request of another organisation? 
Primary research method used 
User stories
If an Enter and View methodology was applied, was the visit announced or unannounced? 

Details of health and care services included in the report

Primary care services 
Dentist (non-hospital)

Details of people who shared their views

Number of people who shared their views 
Age group 
Not known
Not known
Not known
Sexual orientation 
Not known
Does the information include public's views? 
Does the information include carer's, friend's or relative's views? 
Not known
Does the information include staff's views? 
Types of health and care professionals engaged 
All care professionals
What was the main sentiment of the people who shared their views? 

Outcomes and impact

Were recommendations made by local Healthwatch in the report? 
Does the information contain a response from a provider? 
Is there evidence of impact in the report? 
Is there evidence of impact external to the report? 
Not known

Network Impact
Relationships that exist locally, regionally, nationally have benefited from the work undertaken in the report
Implied Impact
Where it is implied that change may occur in the future as a result of Healthwatch work. This can be implied in a provider  response, press release or other source. Implied impact can become tangible impact once change has occurred.
Tangible Impact
There is evidence of change that can be directly attributed to Healthwatch work undertaken in the report.