Dental service access problems exacerbated by pandemic

Dentist wearing mask with patient in background

The Covid shutdown of dental services across our area aggravated existing problems around access to high street NHS dental care.

Healthwatch writes:

That’s one of the findings from the recent Healthwatch Cambridgeshire and Healthwatch Peterborough report, Your care during Covid, published last month.

And it’s been underlined by a spike in calls to the independent health and care champion's Information Service from people trying to find an NHS dentist and treatment.

A shortage of NHS dentists or dental nurses in the region and significant problems with recruitment were highlighted nearly two years ago in our Finding an NHS Dentist report.

And the Covid-19 pandemic has piled on more problems for local people needing dental services.

Dental surgeries were closed in the first lockdown but were able to reopen in June if they were Covid-safe. However, restrictions about social distancing, infection control, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and hygiene mean they can see only about a third of their usual daily appointments.

In line with national guidance, priority is going to people needing emergency and urgent treatment. 

But people's experiences do reveal a very mixed picture across our area.

We are also aware that the special care dentist service - for people with learning or physical disabilities or dental anxiety - had a four-figure backlog after the first lockdown. Lack of dentistry for children is also an emerging problem.

    What we're doing

    Our Healthwatch is sharing people’s concerns and frustrations about access and care with NHS England and NHS Improvement which commissions dental services in our area.

    We are in weekly contact with them and we are hopeful that a new approach can be found but this will not happen in the short-term.


    We are the independent champion for people who use health and social care services. We’re here to make sure that those running services, put people at the heart of care. 

    Our sole purpose is to understand the needs, experiences and concerns of people who use health and social care services and to speak out on their behalf.

    We focus on ensuring that people’s worries and concerns about current services are addressed.

    We work to get services right for the future.

    Healthwatch Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CIC