There are huge regional variations in the availability of NHS dental care in England, according to new Which? research.
The findings, which come a year on from the start of new NHS dentists’ contracts in England, also reveal a continuing lack of practitioners taking on new patients.
Our survey of 466 dentistry practices across England found that just over a third (36 per cent) are taking on any new NHS patients.
That’s no significant improvement since 2005 when the figure was 31 per cent. In some parts of the country, the figure is even lower.
People living in the north west of England are less likely than average to have access to NHS dentistry – just 13 per cent of dental practices are taking on any new NHS patients.
Residents of Yorkshire and Humberside (15 per cent) and South Central England (16 per cent) are also worse off than most.
The areas shown to have the highest proportion of dental practices taking on NHS patients were the west midlands (63 per cent) and London (59 per cent).
Which? health campaigner Frances Blunden said: ‘As long as the Department of Health continues to allocate money for Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) to spend on dentistry on the basis of previous levels of NHS provision in their area, they will perpetuate the stark inequalities in access.
‘Where needs are not currently being met by the NHS, people are either putting off having treatment or are being forced to go private. If the government is serious about creating a patient-centred approach to NHS dentistry, then PCT allocations must be related to local needs.’