The government is to urge all dentists to join a 'comparison website' – amid concerns they are falling behind doctors in the drive to increase public scrutiny.
The ‘NHS Choices’ website lists details of three-quarters of GP surgeries, the full services provided and comments describing the experiences of patients.
The site is now being expanded to provide profiles on thousands of residential care homes, with the aim of ending recent scandals of abuse and poor treatment in some of them.
And visitors to NHS Choices will eventually be able to view ‘Ofsted-style’ ratings for every home and hospital.
The initiative is an example of the government’s conviction that greater transparency – and involving the public – is the key to raising standards and value-for money in public services.
But only 47% of dentists currently provide information about their practices and services on the website – a proportion the department of health (DH) is determined to raise.
Now officials are working with the British Dental Association (BDA), to persuade more dentists to acknowledge the advantages of the scheme.
A DH spokesman told Dentistry: 'Offering people the opportunity to compare dental practices helps them to understand the services the NHS is providing and also helps them to choose the services they wish to use.
'NHS Choices will shortly write to all dentists offering them the opportunity to manage their pages on the NHS Choices website.'
Ministers have pointed to the growing popularity of NHS Choices, which received around 27 million visits last month.
However, they have also acknowledged it is “a work in progress” – with a need to sign up more health providers and to stimulate more comments.
The dentists that are listed provide information about whether they treat charge-exempt adults and children, as well as fee-paying adults.
However, many have not been given a score on the five-star rating provided – despite visitors to the website being encouraged to ‘rate it yourself’.
Around 8,000 care home providers have started compiling profiles for their homes, with many more expected to follow, after recent publicity.
The search tool can be found at http://www.nhs.uk/service-search/dentists/locationsearch/3
By parliamentary correspondent Rob Merrick