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The following information is mostly Dorset-wide[1] and is taken from three reports, which are:

1.Dental Access for Adults and Children in Dorset (NHS England, July 2022)
2.Oral Health Needs Assessment, South West of England – Appendix 7 Dorset (NHS England and NHS Improvement, January 2021)
3.Why are people finding it difficult to access NHS dental care in Dorset? (Healthwatch Dorset, February 2023)

Report 1 notes that there has been a steady fall in the number of patients in Dorset who are able to access a NHS dentist.  The proportion of adults seeing a NHS dentist decreased rapidly from 45% in 2020 to 35% in 2021, albeit this figure is very close to the average for England.  The proportion of children who had access to a NHS dentist was somewhat higher at 42% in 2021.  Meanwhile, report 2 says that surveys show both access to NHS dentistry and its affordability are public concerns.

Report 3, which considers enquiries about access to NHS dentistry, says access has been an issue for a long time, but the situation was exacerbated by the Covid pandemic.  Moreover, it is an issue that particularly affects those on low incomes (who are otherwise unable to afford treatment) and those from BME backgrounds.  This report highlights that these trends leave some people experiencing pain, inconvenience and worsening dental problems.  Notably, it flags a gap in dentists who will accept children for NHS treatment in the west of the county.

Report 1 identified 102 dental practices across Dorset that delivered some NHS dentistry in 2021/22.  However, a survey of practices carried out in 2022 for report 3 found no practices were currently taking on new NHS adult patients.  It also found just 18 practices (out of 93 surveyed) still accepting children for NHS treatment, 17 practices that were now entirely private and 23 that maintained a NHS waiting list (though some had no idea when their list would reopen).

Report 1 explains that 25 practices across the wider county will offer urgent care slots for those triaged by and directed to them by the 111 Wessex Dental Advisory Service.  It appears that some funding was used to expand the capacity of this service in 2022.

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[1] Note that these reports include Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole in their definition of Dorset.

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