Summary of report content
Summary of the report: Accessibility of NHS dentists in Blackburn with Darwen 2020. Published by Healthwatch Blackburn with Darwen April 2020:
Healthwatch Blackburn with Darwen, following a high number of calls since March 2020 from residents unable to either register or book an appointment with an NHS dentist, carried out a ‘mystery shopping exercise’. They called every dental practice registered on NHS Choices website to understand accessibility of NHS dentists in the borough. They also gathered case study feedback from residents who called their information and signposting service.
Main themes that emerged are as follows:
- No access to NHS dentists: All 21 of dentists questioned said they would not be taking on any new NHS patients for the foreseeable future and only 1 said they would take on children.
- Signposting: When asked which practices are taking on new NHS patients, most referred the caller to the Lancashire emergency dental team phoneline number 0300 1234 010 or 111 or to ‘ring around’. However, five answered “I don’t know”.
- Emergency: The majority referred the caller to the Lancashire emergency dentist phoneline or 111 in the event of an emergency.
- Changes: When asked when things would be back to ‘normal’, all 21 practices were unable to comment.
It was concluded that, although the government has stated that the NHS is working hard to restore dental care, this significant lack of access to support could have a dramatic impact on residents’ oral health and it is clear from findings and the volume of calls being made to Healthwatch Blackburn with Darwen that residents are not aware of what support is available to them at this time.
Recommendation: People would benefit from clear information about provision in the borough and emergency options so that they can make informed choices. Partners in health and social care and the voluntary sector would benefit from this up to date information to manage residents’ expectations and signpost them appropriately as well as work together more closely to promote good oral health.