Implementation of the new dental access indicator is going ahead, following the completion of successful trials with 12 PCTs last year.

The new indicator will assess the proportion of each PCT’s population that has tried to get an
NHS dental appointment and the percentage of those people who have been successful.

It will draw on data from the existing GP survey for the fourth quarter of 2009/10, the first results are due to become available to the NHS in June 2010 and to be published in July.

The questions on dentistry in the survey are:
• When did you last try to get an NHS dental appointment for yourself?
• Last time you tried to get an NHS dental appointment, what type of appointment were you trying to get?
• Last time you tried to get an NHS dental appointment, was it with a dental practice you had previously visited for NHS dental care?
• Were you successful in getting an NHS dental appointment?
• (If relevant) Why haven’t you tried to get an NHS dental appointment in the last two years?

The responses to these questions will help to inform estimates of future demand for NHS
dentistry by establishing how many people report the unavailability of NHS dentistry as the
main reason they have not tried to get an NHS appointment.

It’s important to note that only 30% (approximately) of patients will receive the dentistry questions; the remaining 70% will receive questions on care plan, as the patient survey is being split for this quarter.

The new indicator was piloted through a random telephone survey of 1,000 people in each of 12 PCTs during summer 2009.

It was shown to be effective in differentiating between PCTs in terms of people’s success
in being able to get an NHS dental appointment.

The new indicator will not change formal monitoring arrangements in 2010/11.

PCTs will continue to be measured on delivery of their planned increase against the current
Vital Sign (in terms of the number of patients accessing NHS dentistry over 24 months).

PCTs may, however, need to adjust their demand forecasts in the light of the results generated
by the new indicator to ensure that their demand estimates are sufficiently robust to
meet the dental access goal by March 2011.

The Department of Health expects to use these results as a key element of the summer 2010
plan sign-off process.

It is anticipated that the Department of Health and the Care Quality Commission  (CQC) will start to use the new indicator from April 2011 onwards to assess whether PCTs  have reached the access goal.

News of the new access indicator appeared in the March issue of the CDO Update.