Shropshire's lack of NHS dentists used to press Government for better services
The struggles of people in Shropshire to access dental care is being used as evidence to persuade the Government to provide more accessible and affordable NHS dentistry.
The NHS and the Government have published a plan to recover NHS dentistry, setting out a major new focus on prevention and good oral health in young children, and an expansion of the dental workforce.
Healthwatch Shropshire, the local health and social care champion, has been receiving feedback for years about how people are struggling to access NHS dental care in the county.
It has shared the findings with parent body Healthwatch England, which has used it as evidence to support its work to persuade the Government to provide better NHS dentistry.
Healthwatch Shropshire chief officer Lynn Cawley said, “I would like to thank all of the people in Shropshire who have taken the time to share their experiences of accessing NHS dental care with us. We hope that this plan will improve the ability of Shropshire residents to access NHS dental care.
"It is early days and we don’t yet know how it will affect services in Shropshire but hopefully this will become clearer. As it does we would still like to hear from people so we can feed their experiences back to the local NHS and to Healthwatch England to help build up a picture of how the plan is working.”
The plan says NHS dentists will be given a ‘new patient’ payment of between £15 and £50, depending on the treatment needed, to treat around a million new patients who have not seen an NHS dentist in two years or more.
People will be able to see which practices in their local area are accepting new patients on the NHS website and the NHS App. The Government will roll out a marketing campaign encouraging anyone who has not been seen by a dentist for the past two years to access treatment.
A new ‘Smile For Life’ programme will also be rolled out to offer parents and parents-to-be advice for baby gums and milk teeth, with the aim that by the time children go to school, every child will see tooth brushing as a normal part of their day.
Dental vans will help deliver dental treatment to people in rural and coastal areas.
A water fluoridation programme will be rolled, which could reduce the number of tooth extractions due to decay in the most deprived areas of the country. Subject to consultation, the programme would enable an additional 1.6 million people to benefit from water fluoridation, first expanding across the North East.
Healthwatch England CEO, Louise Ansari, said "Across England, we have seen major access issues in NHS dentistry. The rising cost of living has had a real impact, with our latest data showing that one in five people have avoided going to the dentist because they can't afford it. A year ago, this figure was one in ten.
“The dentistry recovery plan is a good start in addressing these serious problems. To widen access to NHS dentistry to those experiencing the greatest health inequalities, it’s vital dentists take up the new premium payments, promote availability of appointments to new patients and prioritise slots to people most in need."
“However, in the long run more radical solutions are needed to get NHS dentistry back on track. We welcome the Government’s to commitment to consulting with the profession on the contract and urge this to happen as soon as possible.”
“We know that people will generally welcome the plan, but ultimately, they would like to be be able to register with a local NHS dentist in the same way as they can with a local GP, developing a trusted relationship with a dentist who can prevent poor oral health and treat any new problems or emergencies.”