Rob Merrick reports on the results of a survey highlighting the ease of getting a dental appointment.
The vast majority of patients are able to get a dental appointment when they want one, a survey reveals, in sharp contrast to long queues to see a general practitioner (GP).
In a poll of 450,000 people, only 5% of those who sought dental treatment in the past two years said they failed to get an appointment, NHS England said.
That was exactly half the failure rate in a similar survey of GP patients, which recorded that 10% complained they could not book a slot at a surgery.
In blackspots such as Bradford, more than one in five patients were unable to 'see or speak to someone' at their local GP practice.
In the survey of NHS dentists, the poorest score was again recorded in Bradford, but it was only one third of the proportion unhappy about GPs at 7.6%.
The next worst performance was in Kent & Medway (7.4%), followed by London (7%), Greater Manchester (6.5%), Lancashire (6.1%) and Surrey and Sussex (5.6%).
The fewest patients were left unsatisfied in Cheshire, Warrington and Wirral (3.2%), then Cumbria, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear (3.5%), Essex (3.6%) and Shropshire and Staffordshire (3.6%).
However, the study, carried out between July and September last year, also found that 39% of people had not even tried to get an appointment for over two years.
The detailed results showed that:
- 84% of patients rated their experience of NHS dentistry as positive - 48% saying very good and 36% fairly good
- 93% were successful in getting an appointment, a success rate rising to 95% when people saying 'can't remember' were excluded
- Younger adults, those from ethnic minorities and people who had not been to the practice before were less successful
- Of the 39% of adults who did not try to get an appointment, one fifth said they had not needed to do so
- 13% of the respondents who didn't try to get an NHS appointment said they didn't believe they would be able to do so.
A major political row was triggered by the survey, which found that one in 10 patients were unable to see a GP.
The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) warned it meant that patients were being turned away on 34 million occasions each year.
And it blamed the 'growing crisis' on funding cuts to general practice, at a time when demand for services is rising sharply.
But the department of health accused the RCGP of confusing the number of people with the number of consultations, describing its claims as 'complete nonsense'.