Healthwatch England, the statutory independent national champion for people who use health and social care services, has started the year by telling the Government and the NHS that access to NHS dentistry is one of its six priorities.
In a letter from Healthwatch to the Minister ahead of the Government’s mandate to the NHS, Healthwatch stated:
The experiences shared with us highlight that in some parts of the country people have real trouble accessing an NHS dentist. We have also heard that there are real gaps in provision for particular groups, such as people in care homes. Yet such evidence is often overlooked in national commissioning decisions, particularly where national satisfaction surveys tell a more positive story on average. As an initial step the Mandate should look to raise the priority given to NHS dental services, but looking more broadly it could also be used to encourage NHS England to consider a wider evidence base when commissioning services directly.
These concerns echo those Local Dental Committees have made on several occasions. In July 2017 the Federation of London Local Dental Committees wrote to the Department of Health following the House of Lords Inquiry into the long-term sustainability of the NHS pointing out the difficulties that patients in care homes can have accessing dental care and recommending that the Care Quality Commission (CQC) relates its inspection of social care providers to the links those providers have to dental practices. This recommendation was reiterated in the LDCs submission to the Mayor of London’s Health Inequalities Strategy in November 2017. The LDCs have also called for more responsive commissioning to keep pace with the growing population of London and its changing oral health need.
Building on successful engagement with local Healthwatch, such as in Camden and Lambeth, the Local Dental Committees in London are looking forward to working with Healthwatch in London and other stakeholders on these and other issues relating to oral health such as mental wellbeing and dental health, healthy habits and children’s oral health.
Ahead of LDC Conference in June 2018 the Local Dental Committees in London are putting together Conference Motions with tangible outcomes that, if taken forward, will help to raise the profile of NHS dental services and help improve oral health. If you would like to get in contact with your Local Dental Committee, please contact us.
The full list of Healthwatch England’s priorities can be found on their website.