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People in West Yorkshire urged to speak out about difficulties finding an NHS dentist

20/03/2015

Local Healthwatch organisations across West Yorkshire are working together to highlight issues around information about, and access to, NHS dentists in the region. 

Andrew Jones from Healthwatch Bradford and District says,

“Here in Bradford, we hear a lot from people who are struggling to find an NHS dentist that is accepting new patients. When trying to help these people we’ve found out for ourselves how difficult it is to get accurate information, and how frustrating it can be when you are faced with long waiting lists or having to travel across the district or beyond to see a dentist.”

Now there’s an opportunity for people to speak out and help the NHS decide on its priorities in the future, and Healthwatch across West Yorkshire are urging people to share their experiences with them. 

Healthwatch Kirklees Director Rory Deighton explains,

“We’ve struggled to convince NHS England in Leeds that there is a problem - but now patients have a real opportunity to do so.  For the next four weeks, a survey by Public Health England will ask patients about their experiences of NHS oral health services, including dentists, in Yorkshire.

“It’s a really powerful opportunity for patients to say, ‘Actually, this is what happened to me, and my mum, and my neighbour’. Healthwatch organisations across West Yorkshire are joining together to ask patients their views. It’s a really important document because it will help the NHS decide on its priorities in the future.”

The survey can be found on Healthwatch Bradford’s website at healthwatchbradford.co.uk or people can contact the Healthwatch team on 0300 56 10 987, or get in touch with the local Healthwatch for their area.

The opportunity to influence the NHS priorities for oral health coincides with the publication of data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) that just under a third (31%) of five-year-olds and nearly half (46%) of eight-year-olds have decay in their milk teeth. Its survey of more than 13,500 children and nearly 10,000 dental examinations found that 41% of five-year-olds from more deprived families had tooth decay, compared to 29% from less deprived families.

Responding to the HSCIC statistics, Anna Bradley, Chair of Healthwatch England, says,

“Tooth decay is preventable as long as parents have the right information about and access to NHS dentists.

“Yet we know from local Healthwatch research into dentist access that some parents can't find a dentist who will treat their children on the NHS and others don’t know when to take their child to the dentist. It seems that, as a result, children with tooth decay are increasingly needing emergency dental treatments in hospital. Last year alone 26,000 five-nine year olds required emergency dental surgery*.

“It’s crucial that information about which dentists are available to NHS patients is up-to-date and there is good information for parents about how to care for their children's teeth. This means decay can be prevented and there is no need resort to emergency A&E treatments when decay has already set in."

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