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This rather rapid information gathering project has confirmed that the provision of NHS dentistry is problematic in the west of Dorset.  Although practices which have a history of providing NHS dentistry are largely continuing to do so for their existing patients, none of them are taking on new NHS patients (other than in fairly exceptional cases).

The project also highlights the lack of capacity for dental provision in the west of Dorset, which extends beyond NHS dentistry to private care (albeit not as acutely).  Recruitment of dental professionals is a significant issue in the area.

The project partially confirms the Healthwatch Dorset finding that online information for patients searching for NHS dentistry can be dated and/or unclear.  In fairness, information from the nearest practices is mostly quite clear, but that from practices slightly further afield can be confusing.    

The transfer (or devolution) of responsibility for NHS dentistry contracts to the Dorset Integrated Care Board may provide an opportunity.  The Board may well be more willing to engage with local organisations and to consider tailored solutions.

The discussions held beg a question whether there is more that could be done, including outside of dental practices, to improve oral health advice and support.  This could be in other health and care settings, in schools or through voluntary sector initiatives that support health and wellbeing.  For example, whether oral health packs could be made more widely available for at-risk groups.

It may also be worth exploring whether Dentaid offers a viable option to meet any specific and unmet needs for dental care in the area.  More information will be sought about their service.

Finally, it is worth noting that Healthwatch Dorset (as the external champion for patients) say they would welcome any help BLAP and its members could give to increase the level of feedback they receive about dental services in the west of Dorset.

This project was led by Brian Wilson, with research assistance from Claire Peters-Way and Barry Bates.  It received valuable support from the BLAP Health and Wellbeing Working Group, which has representation from Public Health Dorset, Jurassic Coast PCN Social Prescribing Team, Healthwatch Dorset, Age UK North, South & West Dorset, Steps 2 Wellbeing, Bridport & District Citizens Advice, Dementia Friendly Bridport and a local resident who is on the Dorset ICP Public Engagement Group.

Final report 22/06/23

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