Experiences of accessing NHS dental services since the pandemic

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Summary of report content

Healthwatch Islington researched access to dentistry after seeing an increase in the number of people asking for them for help to find an NHS dentist.  Before the pandemic, no one had contacted them about this issue. They analysed themes in their feedback, conducted a survey and undertook interviews with dental practice staff and care home managers.  Altogether they spoke to 120 people.

An increasing number of people have been asking them about dentistry – from 10% of all signposting cases in July to September 2019 to 32% in October to December 2021. Dental enquiries that aren't requests for help finding an NHS dentist tend to be about access (for example emergency treatment, special needs access, or patient choice), entitlements (cost of care/dental charges) or complaints.

The mystery shop found that all but one of the dental practices contacted were able to book NHS appointments right now for their existing registered patients. Half of these practices said that they were accepting new NHS patients for dental appointments and the other half said that they were not accepting new NHS patients.

The report contains three case studies where Healthwatch Islington worked intensively with vulnerable local residents to get a dentist, including urgent access to dentistry for asylum seekers.

As a group, survey respondents who were registered with an NHS dentist gave a much more positive response to the question, 'In the past 18 months, how easy or difficult have you found getting a dental appointment?' than respondents who weren't registered. People are less likely to be registered with a dentist if a) they have recently moved to Islington (within the last two years), or b) they have fallen off the system/lost connection with their previous dentist.

The report contains five recommendations.

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General details

Report title 
Experiences of accessing NHS dental services since the pandemic
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch Islington
Date of publication 
Tuesday, 22 March, 2022
Date evidence capture began 
Thursday, 1 July, 2021
Date evidence capture finished 
Friday, 31 December, 2021
Key themes 
Booking appointments
Cost of services
Waiting times and lists for treatment

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 about conditions and diseases

What type of pregnancy or maternity themes are included in the report 

Details of people who shared their views

Number of people who shared their views 
Age group 
18-24 years
25-64 years
65-85 years
85 +
Asian / Asian British
Black/ African / Caribbean / Black British
Mixed / multiple ethnic groups
Other ethnic group
Sexual orientation 
Not known
Other population characteristics 
Refugees or asylum seekers
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.