Summary of report content
Healthwatch Newham conducted two pieces of research in 2017 which found that 65% of dental practices could not provide a routine appointment within 2 weeks. Further research in February 2019 showed that 45% of practices were not able to provide emergency appointments, or referrals to alternative care, with waiting times for appointments up to 3 months in half of the practices. This work led Healthwatch Newham to review access and service quality at NHS dentists once an appointment is obtained. People's views and experiences were gathered via a questionnaire, a focus group and observations during visits to local NHS dental practices.
Experiences of patient care:
- 84% of patients felt involved in the decision making about their dental care.
- 80% understood their treatment and 75% felt listened to during appointments.
- 100% of patients reported being satisfied with their dental practice.
- All emergency appointments were booked by long-term patients only.
- Practices declined emergency appointments for walk-in patients due to capacity.
- 54% of patients waited for around 1 to 2 weeks for an appointment.
- 8% of patients reported 2 to 4 weeks waiting time and a further 16% up to one month.
- Most patients were satisfied with the waiting times for routine appointments.
- Patients reported enjoying establishing a long-term relationship with their dentist.
- Newham dentists were doing a good job, ensuring patients felt in charge of their care.
- Although routine and emergency appointments were more easily available, compared to past reviews, this was not the case for emergency appointments for walk-in patients.
- Older people did not perceive visiting a dentist as a priority and only did so in emergencies. They were also unclear about the implications of treatment.
Based on these findings, Healthwatch Newham made the following recommendations:
- Review the allocation of NHS appointments in Newham to ensure appointments, including emergency, are available for resident and walk-in patients.
- Reception staff to explain how the different NHS price bands change depending on the treatment to ensure patients understand what they are paying for.
- Encouraged older people to visit the dentist more often by offering support with making an appointment, ensuring practices are accessible and providing targeted information.