Agenda item

The Impact of COVID-19 on Access to Dental Services

Report by the Director of Law and Assurance.


The Committee is asked to consider the reports by NHS England and Healthwatch on access to dentistry services.


30.1     The Committee scrutinised the impact of Covid-19 on access to dental services taking into account reports by NHS England (NHSE) and Healthwatch West Sussex (copies appended to the signed minutes).


30.2     The Committee expressed concerns around finding an NHS dentist, getting appointments, treatment backlog, fluoridation rates, meeting targets, training, recruitment and retention of dentists, dental practices closing, distribution of money from closed contracts, the link between poorer areas and poorer dental health, the wider impact on health due to lack of dental care, what to do when NHS practices close and the prohibitive costs of private dentistry and felt that it was essential that website information was kept up to date to ensure residents were able to find a dentist when required.


30.3     Summary of responses to committee members’ concerns: -


·         The Cabinet Member for Public Health & Wellbeing promised to share the 2018 West Sussex Oral Health Needs Assessment in Children and Young People report with the Committee and said that the Council had a responsibility to monitor the standard of the dental health within its area through needs assessments and could commission dental public health services

·         Fluoridation was not an area covered by NHSE

·         Money from discontinued contracts was returned to NHSE for reinvestment in dentistry - temporary contracts were offered to fill gaps until services were recommissioned

·         NHSE was not involved in the recruitment, training or retention of dentists – Dental Contract Reform was being looked at by the Department for Health and Social Care and would cover these issues

·         Dental Contract Reform would also cover establishing a body to look after patients if their NHS dental practice closes

·         NHS England helped GPs with signposting people to where they could get dental treatment

·         Dental practices were prioritising those with urgent need to minimise the number of people going to A & E for dental reasons

·         The funding offered to most dental practices is based on historical claiming profiles - some earning lower amounts have terminated their contracts for financial reasons – NHSE is not able to increase contracts and payments without an associated increase in activity

·         There is no target to look at the backlog of dental work

·         Patients can look for NHS dentists via the NHS UK website, but this relies on dental practices keeping their information up to date

·         NHSE had embarked on a commissioning programme to increase access to dentistry in West Sussex before the pandemic

·         A practice in Haywards Heath had increased its contract and temporary contracts were in place in other areas with work continuing to increase capacity in the county


30.4     Resolved – that


     i.        The 2018 West Sussex Oral Health Needs Assessment in Children and Young People report be circulated to the Committee

    ii.        The West Sussex Oral Health Needs Assessment in Children and Young People report be refreshed

   iii.        That Democratic Services explores whether data on fluoridisation rates in West Sussex is available to the Committee

  iv.        The Chairman writes to the relevant Secretary of State to highlight the need to address the national shortage of dentists and what work can be undertaken in terms of incentives to encourage people to become dentists

    v.        The Cabinet Member for Public Health & Wellbeing or the Health and Wellbeing Board, to assess how he/it can be involved in Dental Contract Reform

  vi.        The Cabinet Member for Public Health & Wellbeing/NHS to provide information to the Committee on the state of dental health in West Sussex and what is being done to address this through prevention work

 vii.        NHS England to provide the Committee with a plan to address the backlog of dental appointments

Supporting documents: