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Healthwatch gets its teeth into problems with NHS dentists

05/02/2016

Healthwatch Bradford and District is the independent watchdog for health and social care in the district, and their latest project is drawing attention to difficulties people report with availability of NHS dentists in the city. 

“Healthwatch are hearing all the time from people in the district who are frustrated because they are having difficulty getting an NHS dentist,” says Andrew Jones, manager of Healthwatch. 

“Often we’re having to tell people that the nearest dentist to them is several miles away, and this makes it impossible for some people to get the dental care they need.  We’ve made access to NHS dentistry one of our priorities, and we’re gathering evidence from the public in order to campaign for changes.”

“We were very pleased to see Judith Cummins MP raise this in Prime Minister’s Questions. Healthwatch have met with Judith and some of our other local MPs to discuss the problems people have getting a dentist, which go hand-in hand with well-publicised poor oral health in many parts of the district.”

Forty six per cent of five year old children in Bradford suffer from tooth decay, compared with 28 per cent across England.

Healthwatch is carrying out a big public survey about dentistry, in order to build an accurate picture of the problem. They’ll then present this evidence to NHS England and others, in order to come up with better ways of delivering dental services across the district to ensure that everyone who needs NHS dentistry can access it in Bradford.

The Healthwatch team are out in the community in places likes Children’s Centres, bus stations, and shopping centres, asking people about their experience of getting an NHS dentist; there’s also an online survey where people can give their views.

Victoria Simmons, Communications Manager for Healthwatch says, “We have spoken to many people who cannot find a dentist anywhere near where they live and then may face a long waiting time.  Oral health issues are a particular issue for people living in the inner city, and lots of the parents we speak to are worried because their children’s teeth aren’t being regularly checked.

“We know that there’s lots of work being done, particularly focusing on children, to educate families about good oral health, and successful programmes like Building Brighter Smiles and the fluoride varnish scheme. But it’s a real worry if alongside this people can’t get seen by a dentist.”

“Getting an accurate picture of the problem is the next step for Healthwatch; it will enable us to keep challenging those in charge to improve access to NHS dentistry in Bradford district.”

You can help Healthwatch's campaign by answering a short survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/bradforddentists

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