Survey reveals "deepening crisis" in access to NHS dental care in England

  • Date: 12 May 2022

A SURVEY of adults in England has revealed that 41 per cent of respondents found it difficult to book an NHS dental appointment and 24 per cent said they had to pay privately to get all their required treatment.

The poll of 2,026 adults commissioned by Healthwatch England in February 2022 also found that nearly half (49 per cent) felt NHS dental charges were unfair. More people in 2022 think that NHS dental charges are unfair compared to the last two years (rising from 40 to 49 per cent in the last year).

Findings from the poll also suggests that people from higher social economic groups are six times more likely to be able to pay for private dental care if unable to find an NHS dentist compared to people at the lower scale, including pensioners, low-paid workers and the unemployed.

The data reveals a significant North-South divide regarding how affordable people find dental care. One in five people (20 per cent) living in the South of England said they could afford private dental care if unable to find an NHS dentist compared to just seven per cent of those living in the North of England.

In its report, Healthwatch England cites recent data obtained by the Association of Dental Groups revealing that more than 2,000 dentists quit the NHS last year, suggesting a growing trend toward private provision.

Louise Ansari, national director at Healthwatch England said: “Access to NHS dentistry has been one of the most significant issues people have raised with us in the last two years. There is now a deepening crisis in dental care, leaving people struggling to get treatment or regular check-ups on the NHS.

“The shortage of NHS appointments is creating a two-tier dental system, which widens inequalities and damages the health of the most disadvantaged communities. With millions of households bearing the brunt of the escalating living costs, private treatment is simply not an option, and even NHS charges can be a challenge. This needs urgent attention if the Government is to achieve its levelling up plan and tackle health disparities.

“We strongly recommend that a new dental contract is in place before Integrated Care Systems take on formal responsibility for dentistry from next April.”

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