Dentistry campaign NHS dentist campaign
How easy is it to find an NHS dentist? And once you've found one, do you know how much you'll be paying? At Which? we've been campaigning for better dental treatment for everyone. Here's what you helped us achieve.
Back in winter 2008, the Government announced an independent Review of NHS dental services in England.
So in early 2009, Which? carried out research – including surveys and mystery shopping – to find out what the problems were. Patients also shared their experiences with us through our website and magazine, so we were able to tell the Review team and the Government what the most important issues were for you.
Finding a dentist
68 per cent of the people in our survey had tried to get an NHS appointment in the last two years – and around nine out of ten of them had managed to. But finding a new dentist could be hard, especially in rural areas.
You told us how important it was that remaining problems were sorted out quickly – and that you got the help you needed to find a dentist:
"I cannot afford to go to a dentist as I am aware that I have other cavities and the dentist will want to treat them as well, leaving me with a massive bill. So I just live in the hope that the pain won’t get worse. I am stunned that the government still thinks there is no problem; they clearly are not living in the same country as me."
"Our dentist went private so we had difficulty finding a NHS one, but our teeth suffered due to poor dentistry and three had to come out."
Many of the people who shared their stories with us were confused about how NHS pricing worked, and the treatments they should be able to get. This was making you feel distrustful:
"An NHS dentist couldn't be bothered to do the work so told me that it didn't need doing. They get the same amount of money whether they do one filling or 25 fillings. I thought their main job was 'preventative' work."
"I feel like they really rush my NHS check up and try to get me to pay for private appointments instead. e.g. they only do the most basic clean and recommend you see their hygienist for a private clean which costs £52!"
Satisfaction with dental treatment
Most of the people we surveyed were satisfied with the quality of the NHS care they got, but some of you felt that good care was the exception, not the rule:
"Well I may be one of a few but I can honestly say that when we first moved to Cheshire and I needed a dentist badly, I found an NHS through the Yellow Pages, who was absolutely great... Now we have moved to Kettering and walking down the main street saw a dentist advertised and they too are absolutely great. They're also NHS so I consider myself very lucky."
Taking action on NHS dentists
We took your stories to the Review team and the Government to show them how they could help improve dentistry for all NHS patients in England.
Throughout the Review we have pushed for a new system where:
- finding an NHS dentist, in a convenient location, becomes easy for everybody
- it is made clear what dental services people have a right to receive on the NHS and what the prices are
- there is a robust system for ensuring the quality of all dentists' work.
What you helped us achieve
In December 2010 the Coalition Government announced pilots to test better ways of providing NHS dentistry. These won't start until April 2011 – and it will be some time before we see the results – but we'll be keeping a close eye to make sure the new system gives patients what they need.
In the meantime, we're pleased to see that NHS Choices has changed its dentist search function. You can now compare local NHS dentists, add your feedback and opt to only list practices that are taking on new NHS patients. We hope that this will make finding the right NHS dentist easier for everyone.