Experiences of Dentistry in East Sussex since March 2020

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Summary of report content

Healthwatch East Sussex wanted to find out abut the experiences of people who had tried to access NHS dental services both before and since the start of the pandemic. A survey ran from October to November 2021 and was completed by 296 people.

Respondents identified an overall decline in their satisfaction with dental services since March 2020, when compared to their pre-pandemic experiences. The largest decline in satisfaction related to waiting times, but also in: advice received, treatment received, access to information, charges and costs, and speed of referrals.

Most respondents found timely and appropriate access to dentistry services and treatment in their local area (both NHS and private) had got harder. This applied to both routine and emergency services. This was particularly problematic for anyone who had not regularly accessed dental services before the pandemic.

Only one-in-three of the respondents who had tried to join a dental practice (NHS or private) since March 2020 were successful. Some of these had joined as private patients because they could not find practices accepting NHS patients. Some respondents expressed a perception that they could only access treatment in a realistic timescale if they went private.

The lack of a ‘one-stop shop’ location identifying the practices offering NHS dentistry and accepting patients was a major source of frustration. The NHS ‘Find a dentist’ website shows contracted NHS practices, but not which are accepting patients. It was often found to be out-of-date, as were individual practice websites. This left people to have to ‘ring round’ practices, impacting both their time and that of practice staff.

A number of recommendations were made in the report.

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General details

Report title 
Experiences of Dentistry in East Sussex since March 2020
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch East Sussex
Date of publication 
Friday, 11 March, 2022
Date evidence capture began 
Friday, 1 October, 2021
Date evidence capture finished 
Tuesday, 30 November, 2021
Key themes 
Booking appointments
Cost of services
Service delivery organisation and staffing
Waiting times and lists for treatment

Methodology and approach

Primary research method used 

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 
Does the information include public's views? 
Does the information include carer's, friend's or relative's views? 
Does the information include staff's views? 
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? 

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.