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November 7, 2023

Rising NHS Dental Complaints in the UK

Insight

By Will Marshall, Head of Legal and Risk Management

Rising NHS Dental Complaints in the UK

Concerns about the parlous state of NHS dentistry made the news again this week with the publication last week of the Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman’s (PHSO) report on the rise of dental complaints. Dental complaints on the rise | Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO)

The PHSO has reported a sharp rise in complaints about NHS dental care, with complaints relating to access to treatment, treatment quality, and fees being major areas of concern. Complaints to the PHSO about dentists have surged by 66% over a five-year period, rising from 1,193 in 2017/18 to 1,982 in 2022/23. Additionally, the rate of upheld or partially upheld complaints has risen from 42% to 78%, surpassing the 60% average for other NHS services. Common issues include patients being removed from NHS lists, shortages of NHS dentists, and subpar treatment.

The Ombudsman, Rob Behrens, has emphasised the need for a more effective system that ensures quality dental care and addresses common challenges such as appointment availability and treatment shortages. Mr Behrens again highlighted that the NHS dental sector is grappling with low morale, underfunding, and recruitment and retention issues similar to other areas of the NHS.

This report adds to numerous recent criticisms concerning the current state of the system. Earlier reports have highlighted the crisis in oral health inequality between the NHS and independent sectors, focusing on the difficulties in accessing services on the NHS, sub-par treatment, unexpected treatment costs, and patients resorting to DIY dentistry.

It seems that the government’s long-awaited dental recovery plan cannot come soon enough.

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