Health and social care watchdog Healthwatch Derbyshire is calling for dental surgeries to publish correct information about the availability of routine and emergency care following a recent patient survey.
Members of the public can find out which surgeries are taking on patients by visiting the government’s NHS Choices website. Under the existing system, each surgery manages their own information online.
After receiving a high volume of enquiries from people in the Chesterfield and High Peak areas who were struggling to find a dentist – particularly in an emergency – Healthwatch Derbyshire compared the information available on the NHS Choices website and the true picture of dental care availability in the area.
They contacted 21 dental practices in the Chesterfield area who had logged information on NHS Choices that they were accepting new patients and found wide-ranging contradictions.
Only seven out of the 21 were taking on adult NHS fee-paying patients contrary to the information on the NHS Choices website.
Five stated that they were not taking on fee-exempt adults despite stating that nonfee-paying adults could register.
Six practices would not accept children and young people aged 18 and below having logged availability on the website.
The research also unveiled wide variations in waiting times – ranging between two days and four weeks.
Healthwatch Derbyshire is an independent organisation representing the views of the Derbyshire public on health and social care services.
CEO Karen Ritchie explained: “NHS Choices is the public’s first port of call to find a dentist but our research found that the information on this website is often incorrect.
“This means that it can be very difficult for patients to know where to go if they want to register with a dentist – particularly in an emergency when they are in extreme pain and need urgent treatment.
“With fewer dentists taking on patients for treatment, particularly provided under the NHS, and outdated information online, those trying to access services are being left extremely frustrated.
“We have forwarded the findings of our survey to Healthwatch England who are talking to NHS England about this problem. Healthwatch England are pushing for it to become part of the new contract that dental surgeries keep the information displayed on NHS Choices about their practices up-to-date.”
Healthwatch Derbyshire’s findings followed a report by Which? In 2015 which revealed that only a third of 500 NHS dentists nationally and seven out of 14 surgeries contacted in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire who said they were accepting new patients on NHS Choices were actually not and those who were accepting new patients often had long waiting times.
IT manager David Cupit (62) from New Mills was one of the local people who fell foul of the contradictory information.
Mr Cupit needed to find a dentist to re-cement a crown after his NHS dentist retired. After checking the NHS Choices website , he contacted several dentists who stated that they were taking on new NHS patients but found the information out of date.
He then contacted Healthwatch Derbyshire who were able to put him in touch with a dentist taking on NHS patients in Hope and his dental issues have now been resolved.
Mr Cupit said: “My problem was not an emergency but there was a risk of infection if not attended to fairly promptly.
“The public information available is a minefield of un-joined up services and out of date and inaccurate information.
“Finding an NHS dentist who could give me an appointment in a reasonable time frame was extremely time-consuming and frustrating.
“Luckily Healthwatch Derbyshire were able to put me in touch with a surgery but this situation definitely needs to be resolved.”