NHS acts on your feedback to improve dental care

The NHS has announced changes to dentistry aimed at improving access to services
Image of the back of a chair in the dentist looking up at the dentist's lights.

NHS England has announced several steps to:

  • ensure better dental support for people with complex problems and
  • improve the information for those trying to find an NHS dentist. 

The stories you shared about the difficulties getting a dental appointment have shown the impact of the poor state of dental services, leading to NHS England bringing in these changes.

What have you told us?

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen an increase in the proportion of people telling Healthwatch around the country they found it hard to access an NHS dentist.

Issues we have repeatedly highlighted to national decision-makers include:

  • Longer waiting times for care unless people are prepared to pay for private treatment;
  • People finding out their NHS dental practice had gone fully private; 
  • People finding they had been taken off their dentist NHS lists because they had been unable to visit them during the pandemic;  
  • Unclear advice about where to get help or which dentists are taking on NHS patients; and 
  • People being left in pain, with some developing more problems that led them to be hospitalised and cases of people treating themselves. 

What action has been taken?

NHS England has announced:

  • Increasing the payments for dentists when treating patients with complex needs, for example, people needing three fillings or more;
  • Allowing Dental therapists to accept patients for NHS treatments, providing fillings, sealants, preventative care for adults and children, which will free up dentists’ time for urgent and complex cases.
  • Making sure dentists regularly update the NHS website and directory of services so patients can easily find dentists in their local area who are taking on NHS patients.
  • High-performing dental practices will have the opportunity to increase their activity by a further 10% and to see as many patients as possible.
"Thousands of patients have spoken up about their struggles accessing an NHS dentist over the last few years. This announcement shows the power of their voices, with the NHS listening and taking action. The changes should mean it is easier for people to find a dentist taking on new NHS patients. Those with more complex dental problems will also be better able to access care because of the shift in how the NHS pays dentists... However, these reforms need to be just the start if we are to create an NHS that is able to deliver good dental care for all."
— Chris McCann, Director of Campaigns, Policy and Insight Healthwatch England