NHS dentists accessible to some, patient survey reveals

New dental access statistics reveal that the majority of NHS dental patients are getting to see a dentist when they want to.

But 41% of respondents did not even try to get an appointment with an NHS dentist in the last two years.

That’s according to new statistics out today, based on patients’ real-life experiences in accessing NHS dental care.

Earlier this year, patients were invited to answer questions about dental appointments in the existing GP survey.

The survey draws on data for the fourth quarter of 2009/10.

The questions, regarding NHS dental services, were added to the annual NHS GP survey following successful trials with 12 PCTs last year.

The results, released by the Department of Health today, reveal that:

• 147,600 completed dental question forms were received, of 400,000 that were disturbed (response rate of 37%). Results are available at National (England), Strategic Health Authority (SHA) and Primary Care Trust (PCT) level
• 59% of respondents tried to obtain an appointment with an NHS dentist in the two-year period before March 2010
• 92% of respondents who tried to obtain an appointment within the past two years were successful. 8% were unsuccessful. These percentages exclude those who didn’t remember the outcome
• Respondents who have tried more recently are more successful. 95% of respondents trying within the past three or six months were successful
• For 78% of adults the last appointment sought was for routine dentistry; 18% were seeking an urgent appointment and 2% didn’t remember the type of appointment.
• 81% of the most recent appointments sought were with the dental practice previously attended. In these cases the successful percentage was 95%.
• North East SHA had the largest percentage of the adult population seeking an NHS dental appointment in the last two years, at 66%, while South Central SHA had the smallest, where 52% sought an NHS appointment
• Success in getting an appointment North East SHA had the largest percentage, with 95%, compared to South Central SHA with the smallest (90%).  

Adults who have not tried to get an NHS appointment in the last two years:
• 41% of respondents did not try to get an appointment with an NHS dentist in the last two years
• The most frequent reason for not trying for an NHS dental appointment in the previous two years was ‘I stayed with my dentist when they moved from NHS to private’ which was mentioned by 21% of adults. The next reason ‘I didn’t think I could get an NHS dental appointment’ was 18% of responses.

Full Department of Health analysis is available here and GP Patient Survey dental results are available here.

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