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Healthwatch Lancashire helps to raise awareness of people’s experiences in new national evidence review

A new national evidence review from Healthwatch England pulls together people’s experiences gathered, analysed and reported by 31 selected local Healthwatch over the last two years, including that of Healthwatch Lancashire and Healthwatch Blackpool.

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The review finds those struggling to access care include care home residents, those who only go to the dentist when something is wrong and people living in areas where commissioning has not adapted to meet changes in demand.

Local Healthwatch have heard from those whose voices are not often reflected through polling, revealing a range of areas for improvement.  

Access to NHS Dental Services: What people told local Healthwatch brings together findings by 31 local Healthwatch across the country, identifying three groups of people in particular struggling to get the dental care they need:

  • People who may find it difficult to access high street dentists, such as care home residents, which Healthwatch Lancashire recently reported on in November 2016.
  • People who don’t think they need to go to the dentist or only go when they have a problem – often because they are nervous about seeing the dentist, find it too expensive, or just don’t see the need to. This is evidenced in Healthwatch Lancashire’s Your Dentist, Your Say report from December 2015.
  • People living in areas where commissioning of NHS treatment has not kept up with changes in demand – e.g. as a result of rapid population growth or demographic change.

For example, results of a Healthwatch Lancashire report into dental care revealed that more than half of 62 Lancashire care homes said that they have had difficulties gaining access to dental services for their residents and those with poor mobility or dementia are most at risk.

The report shows that 54% of care home representatives said that they had experienced difficulties gaining access to dental services for their residents in the past although overall 86% said that residents do have access to effective dental services.

In December 2015, Healthwatch Lancashire also reported that one in five people in Lancashire were not registered with a dentist.

However, the Healthwatch network is helping to drive improvements. NHS England have responded to the Healthwatch Lancashire report to state that The Local Dental Network is presently working on a number of schemes to widen access for patients including a focus on facilitated access for the elderly and supporting care homes in relation to oral health for their residents in Lancashire.

Sheralee Turner-Birchall, Chief Officer of Healthwatch Lancashire, said: “Healthwatch Lancashire has undertaken number of projects and activities capturing views from people in Lancashire about dental services and it is rewarding that these have contributed to the national review which demonstrates that local people’s views do make an impact.

“I would also like to thank NHS England for considering the findings from our projects and for responses to our reports.”

Commenting on the national report, Interim Chair of Healthwatch England, Jane Mordue said: “National polling suggests that for most people getting an NHS dentist is pretty straight forward.

“Yet at a local level Healthwatch are uncovering areas where things are not so clear cut, identifying crucial gaps that are leaving patients, in some cases very vulnerable people, without access to the care they need.

“The Government’s new dental contract, with its focus on prevention, looks promising but there is much that could be done right now to help. This could include better information for people about how often they should be going to the dentist, and introducing a more flexible approach to local commissioning so that care can be adjusted to meet demand.

“Above all, where local Healthwatch and the NHS work together we are starting to see the signs of progress, including commitments to increase the numbers of appointments and the opening of new surgeries in badly affected areas. It’s time that these plans were put into action to ensure everyone can get the care they need.”

The full national report ‘Access to NHS Dental Services: What people told local Healthwatch’ is available to read and download from the Healthwatch England website at http://www.healthwatch.co.uk/dentistry

Healthwatch Lancashire’s local reports, including the recent ‘Access to dental care for care home residents in Lancashire’, are available to read and download from the Healthwatch Lancashire website at www.healthwatchlancashire.co.uk