Access to emergency dentistry care and registration options during COVID-19

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Summary of report content

In November 2020, Healthwatch Newham conducted dentist mystery shopping to determine levels of access to emergency care and registration options during COVID-19. In February 2019, Healthwatch Newham conducted research to evaluate all 29 dental practices across Newham after receiving feedback from residents who were finding it difficult to secure an appointment. From the research, it was highlighted that whilst 86% of practices were taking new patients, 45% of dental practices contracted to provide NHS routine appointment had a waiting time of 4 weeks to 3 months. After the first COVID-19 lockdown Healthwatch Newham started to receive feedback from patients who had experienced some difficulty booking emergency NHS dental appointments, some dental practices refusing to see patients, or register new NHS patients.

Healthwatch Newham conducted mystery shopping on their dental practices and found that although dental practices were supposed to be seeing patients and offering some appointments, most practices they contacted were unable to offer an emergency appointment to patients. They found that 93% of dental practices in Newham have limited NHS emergency appointment capacity and are not seeing new walk-in patients, of which only 16% offered a private emergency appointment due to pressures on their services. Access to the Urgent Dental Care (UDC) also appears to be limited and difficult for some patients who require emergency appointments. 17% of dentist were offering private emergency appointments only. 93% of dental practices said they could not register NHS patients either because of COVID-19 backlog or lack of capacity and resources. For alternative emergency appointment, 74% of practices suggested patients should contact NHS 111.

Healthwatch Newham recommended that there is an urgent need in Newham to review the allocation of NHS emergency appointment, access to Urgent Dental Care hub services and improving capacity to allow for new patients to register.

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General details

Report title 
Access to emergency dentistry care and registration options during COVID-19
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch Newham
Date of publication 
Monday, 11 January, 2021
Date evidence capture began 
Sunday, 1 November, 2020
Date evidence capture finished 
Monday, 30 November, 2020
Type of report 
Service evaluation
Key themes 
Communication between staff and patients
Quality of care
Healthwatch reference number 

Methodology and approach

Was the work undertaken at the request of another organisation? 
What type of organisation requested the work 
Primary research method used 
How was the information collected? 
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

Sexual orientation 
Not known
Does the information include public's views? 
Does the information include carer's, friend's or relative's views? 
Not applicable
Does the information include staff's views? 
Does the information include other people's views? 
What was the main sentiment of the people who shared their views? 

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.