Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we were receiving regular contact from Oldham residents who were expressing concern that they were unable to register with an NHS dentist. However, since the pandemic has begun, these have become more frequent. In the past 9 months, over 100 residents have contacted Healthwatch Oldham to obtain assistance in finding an NHS dentist that is taking on patients and we are currently being contacted numerous times a day about these concerns.
Initially, capacity concerns were explained by COVID-19 restrictions. However, since dentists have re-opened following the first lockdown, patients have told us that they have been told that they can receive treatment as a private patient but not as an NHS registered patient.
Therefore, between November and December 2020, we released our Dentistry survey to better understand the experiences of people who have been able to access dental care during COVID-19 and/or the struggles people have had in accessing an NHS dentist. 67 people took the time to complete this survey and we would like to thank everyone for their contributions to this review.
- Access - People stated that they were unable to access an NHS dentist. This still seems to be an issue as dentists started to re-open after the first lockdown.
- Private Treatment is the only option - People expressed their concern that they were in some instances able to receive treatment as a private patient but not as an NHS patient.
- Affordability - For those who only have an option to pay for dental treatment as a private patient, the cost for some people is too high.
- Lack of Waiting List - The most common reason people have been unable to join a waiting list is that their practice does not do them. Lesser examples have been that waiting lists are used but are full or they are not given any guidance on waiting lists at all by the practice. This inconsistency has caused concern for people.
To understand more about these key findings and recommendations made, you can access the full report below.