We visited all NHS dental practices to investigate the quality of service using a questionnaire, observe patients’ experiences and test the accessibility of the buildings. A focus group was also conducted in partnership with an organisation working with elderly clients to ensure the views of vulnerable individuals were included in the research.
- 42 (76%) were long-term patients, as well as their families, of the dental practises. This long-term relationship and consistency seemed to be important to people. Of the remaining, 5 (9%) were recent patients having been registered between 2 to 6 months and 7 (12%) were first-time visitors.
- 26 (47%) had been asked for proof of address during registration. However, most of them, 21 (81%) were long-term patients, therefore, had registered up to 20 years ago when the regulations may have differed to the ones currently.
- 18 (33%) patients had not been asked for proof of address
- The remaining 20% could not remember or did not complete this question.
- 7 (13%) patients were asked for some sort of ID before treatment. However, when asked to specify, answers included medical records, NHS cards, and benefit letters. Most practices that the team visited asked patients to update their medical records, such as contact details and health issues before the appointment. However, patients should not be required to show an NHS card to receive treatment. Pre-payment of consultations was also a requirement in most dental practices.
We recommend the following to improve the quality of service in dental practices:
- NHS England to review to allocation of NHS appointments in Newham to ensure sufficient appointments are available for residents. This should also include careful consideration of emergency appointments for walk-in patients, given Newham’s high transient population. All three reports produced to date showed that there is a need to review the allocation of NHS dentist appointments in Newham toa address the current availability constraints.
- Reception staff need to explain how the different NHS price bands change depending on the treatment to ensure patients understand what they are paying for and reduce patient anxiety and distress.
- Older people should be encouraged to visit the dentist more often, either by offering support with making an appointment, ensuring practices are accessible and providing more targeted support and information to older people.