Healthwatch Norfolk call on Govt. to introduce ‘reformed dental contract’ | News

Over 50% of those surveyed in the East feels NHS dental charges are unfair, according to Healthwatch Norfolk

Author: Tom ClabonPublished 32 minutes ago
Last updated 32 minutes ago

Healthwatch Norfolk and local practitioners are calling on the government to introduce a reformed dental contract to the NHS, as increasing numbers of patients struggle to get appointments in the county.

They want the Department of Health to ramp up funding for the industry and do away with targets, which some says aren’t realistic or achievable with current staffing levels.

Jason Stokes is a dentist in Norwich, who also works for Health Education England.

He told us why those on ‘lower-incomes’ are being hit hardest : “The likelihood is that if you’re on a low income you may also be receiving benefits, not always but you may be, and certain benefits allow you to NHS dental treatment free of charge.

“So, clearly if you cannot access an NHS dentist and have to find private care, that goes from being zero charge to a charge that you might find quite significant”.

Mr Stokes also talked us through we else needs to be put in place: “We have to emphasise prevention to reduce the number of people that needs complexed care, we need to look at an NHS contract that encourages people to be NHS dental team members and sees that contract channelled so that it provides care for the most vulnerable and those that are least able to pay for an alternative”.

He says us the current picture doesn’t bode well for the future: “What you’ve got is practices who are hanging on psychologically and financially because the amount of money that the NHS pays practices has actually gone down per head of capita both in real terms and adjusted terms. What you’ve got is people trying to do more, with less resources.

“I’m aware of at least two practices in Norwich who are just about to shift away from the NHS.

“Many practices are finding that they are having to do NHS work because they don’t have the staff or they are feeling burnt out following the work they did during Covid. So, hitting the previous targets have become increasingly difficult”.

Healthwatch Norfolk fear health inequalities are widening:

A representative poll of 2,026 adults based in England found nearly half (49%) of respondents felt NHS dental charges were unfair, with that number rising to 54% in the East.

The poll, which looked at people’s experiences of NHS dentistry, including costs associated with dental care, found the following:

• 48% of respondents in the East said they found it difficult to book an NHS dental appointment, whilst one in five (20%) could not access all the treatments they needed.

• One in five (20%) respondents in the East said they had to pay privately to get all the treatment they required.

• One in six (17%) reported they felt pressured to pay privately when they booked their dental appointment. Similar numbers (17%) said their NHS dentist did not explain the costs before starting their treatment.

• More than one in 10 (12%) reported that their NHS dentist charged more for the treatments than the advertised NHS charges.

• Almost a third (29%) said lack of access to dental care led to more serious problems, making them feel anxious. Others said lack of timely dental care made it hard to eat or speak properly (16%); and made them avoid going out (14%).

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