In 2017, NHS England supplied a list of 29 dental practices contracted to provide NHS dentistry services. We called the dental surgeries to ask a series of questions on the availability of NHS appointments and later visited the premises to find out about access and availability of information.
- While 86% of practices were taking new NHS patients, a significant proportion (45%) of Newham dentists contracted to provide NHS routine appointments had waiting times between 4 weeks to 3 months. Almost half of practices were not able to provide urgent or emergency treatment.
- 45% for practices required an NHS number to register new patients. Only 36% did not require any identification to register.
- There seems to be an endemic lack of information among practices in relation to availability of appointments at other practices and treatment alternatives, as none of the practices with 2 or more weeks wait were able to refer a patient elsewhere for urgent care. Only 5 referred to the 111 services.
- 67% of practices referred to the correct NHS pricing, most of whom referred us to the NHS website for further details, with only two practices saying a higher price and a second requiring patients to register first before confirming the price.
We recommend the following to improve the quality of service in dental practices:
- Practices should be enabled to provide clear and adequate information to patients on alternatives to access urgent care.
- Processes should be improved to ensure that all Newham dentists contracted to provide NHS routine appointments display and can provide fully and clear information on costs and prevention.
- Practices should not be asking patients for identification to register or to have treatment.