Fall in number of patients seen by NHS dentists

THE number of patients seen by an NHS dentist in England has dropped, while courses of treatment delivered have also fallen.

A total of 30 million patients were seen in the two-year period ending June 30, 2015. This is a rise of 6.7 per cent compared to the March 2006 baseline, but it represents a decrease of 0.2 per cent on the previous quarter.

New NHS dental figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show that 55.7 per cent of the total population were seen by an NHS dentist between 2013 and 2015, a rise of just 0.1 per cent since March 2006.

The number of children seen has increased 2.5 per cent since March 2006, with eight million treated by an NHS dentist from 2013 to 2015. However, despite a rise in the actual number of children seen, as a percentage of the population, the proportion has dropped 0.7 percentage points.

The findings have been criticised by the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons of England who said the report reveals “a decade of inertia in access to dentistry.”

Faculty dean Professor Nigel Hunt said: “In the last two years approximately 50 per cent of adults and almost a third of children haven’t seen a dentist. Routine visits to the dentist are vital to maintaining good oral health.

“It’s appalling that tooth decay remains the most common reason why five-to nine-year olds are admitted to hospital; in some cases for multiple tooth extractions under general anaesthetic - despite tooth decay being almost entirely preventable."

He called on the Government to launch a national campaign emphasising the importance of seeing a dentist.

The HSCIC report also shows 39.6 million courses of treatment (CoT) were delivered in 2014/2015 – a drop of almost 149,700 (0.4 per cent) compared to 2013/2014.

Numbers of treatment dropped in all bands apart from Band 1 which rose 1.6 per cent. Band 2 treatments fell most noticeably by almost 354,600 (three per cent).

Scale and polish was the most common treatment delivered to adults, with almost 13 million delivered (45 per cent of total treatments). For children, fluoride varnish treatments topped the list, rising by almost a quarter to 3.4 million.

Read the full report on the HSCIC website

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