Summary of report content
Healthwatch North Somerset conducted research into dentistry during COVID-19. The research contains the experience-based insight gathered by Healthwatch Bristol, Healthwatch North Somerset and Healthwatch South Gloucestershire throughout the Coronavirus pandemic (March -Mid August 2020). 71 pieces of feedback were shared with Healthwatch North Somerset directly or gathered from closed/public groups on social media, rather than resulting from a project or survey.
Healthwatch North Somerset found that lockdown and difficulties dentists experience to create compliant settings for infection-control is compounding a pre-existing issue of supply of NHS dental services. The impact on the public’s oral health could be damaging and lead to the acuity of problems. Limits to the access to services could mean that the detection of diseases/conditions is compromised (head and neck cancers). Healthwatch North Somerset are further concerned that if the situation continues it will widen health inequalities, as those without means are denied the options available to those able to pay for private appointments.
Healthwatch North Somerset found that good communication between patient and dentist is important to make a diagnosis, improve patient outcomes and satisfaction. The limited or absent communication during the lockdown caused concern for residents. If communication is not resumed, the longer-term impact could be further uncertainty, a backlog for patients and longer waiting times. On emergency and urgent care, Healthwatch North Somerset found that where patients found the right information and accessed emergency treatment the outcome was good. However, service delivery during Lockdown did not meet the expected standard which was for all dentists to provide telephone triage and access to medication. This failure in many parts of Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire led to people having long waiting time on calls to 111 and emergency dental hubs and advanced infections (in severity and across multiple teeth.)