About the report "Access to NHS Dental Services in Hertfordshire 2016"
Called a ‘really interesting and informative report’, we’ve been told that NHS England will be able to use it to inform future commissioning arrangements in Hertfordshire and improve the quality of services that are currently available here and elsewhere across the region.
Additionally, we received the following comments in response to the report, as well as suggestions as to what actions NHS England may be able to take to improve patients’ experiences of NHS dental services.
Recommendation: All dental practices to clearly display NHS costs and treatment bands in their practice.
It is a legal and contractual requirement for all dental practices to display a list of charges within the surgery. This is enforced through practice inspections and ad hoc visits to dental premises where the display of NHS Charge information is specifically noted. It is acknowledged that NHS England is unable to carry out regular or frequent inspections. The CQC also carries out inspections. The 32% of people who do not visit a dentist regularly also should be able to access this information as it appears to be a barrier to accessing dental care. This is not such an easy barrier to overcome and perhaps could be addressed on a national basis by making information available from benefits agencies.
Recommendation: Dental practitioners to make it clear to patients if they are receiving and paying for NHS treatment or private treatment ahead of treatment taking place (FP17DC forms).
It is also a legal and contractual requirement for dentists to provide each patient having Band 2 or Band 3 treatment with an FP17DC form to show the NHS and private options available. This is enforced through targeted record card checks which are carried out on high risk practices. These are practices which have been a) highlighted as outliers for any reason, b) the subject of a complaint or whistleblowing allegation, or c) subject to an investigation. We would be happy to remind all dentists of their obligations in respect of treatment planning.
Recommendation: Dental practices to make clear if they are taking NHS patients or not.
The report suggests that the largest percentage of patients look for a new dentist by asking family and friends for recommendations. Word of mouth is generally a good way to find a dentist. What is not universally known is that people do not register with a dentist in the way that they do with a doctor. Although only 32% of the respondents used the NHS Choices website, it is an excellent source of information for all sorts of dental questions, including where to find a dentist, who has to pay for treatment and what the costs are. We always signpost patients to the website so that they can get the most up to date information. It has recently been updated and improved and so we don’t think a dedicated website would add value – a new web address would almost certainly be less visible than NHS Choices. With regard to advertising within GP practices, whilst this is something we cannot enforce we would be prepared to make the request. We would be prepared to consider other means of communication in the future and how we might be able to further promote NHS Choices and/or 111.
Recommendation: Dental staff to be aware and make use of the purple folder used by individuals with learning disabilities.
We are unsure as to the level of awareness of the purple folders by dental staff in Hertfordshire. We will be happy to investigate this further and provide information to dental practices so they have more awareness, are confident to use the Health Action Plan (HAP) Sheets and understand what they need to do to provide the right support to patients who have the folders.
Recommendation: Dental staff to signpost patients with a physical disability to an alternative practice if their premises cannot accommodate.
All dental practices are required to comply with the Equality Act 2010 and this requires them to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate people with physical disabilities. Many are constrained by the limitations of the buildings they accommodate. If a practice applies to move to new premises or a new practice is set up we ensure that the new building is able to be accessed by people with all kinds of disabilities, whether visible or not, wheelchair users, mothers with small children/pushchairs etc. There are also requirements in respect of parking facilities and transport. We don’t currently have lists of practices with disability information and recognise this is a shortcoming. It is a substantial piece of work which we could include in a future workplan.
Recommendation: NHS England locally to ensure discriminatory practice does not take place within dental services within Hertfordshire.
Once identified we take positive action to ensure practices are aware that their behaviour is discriminatory and provide them with advice about ensuring that patients with HIV are not treated any differently from other patients, any of whom may not know or have disclosed their HIV status. We will be able to communicate this advice generally to dental practices.
Recommendation: NHS England to promote information on dental services more widely.
We absolutely agree that this would benefit more people and help them to access dental care more readily. We can discuss dental service promotion with our regional communications lead and raise awareness with our nationally based colleagues.
Read the full report
Healthwatch Hertfordshire were delighted to receive such positive comments in response to their report - Access to Dental Services in Hertfordshire 2016.
You can download a copy of the full report using this link below.