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Making care better with you

Talk to us 0330 355 1285


Helping to improve dental services


Everyone should be able to access good quality NHS dental services, can you?

Picture of dentist

Unfortunately, people are telling us it isn't always easy to get an appointment, particularly in the Fens and Peterborough.

NHS dental services are planned and paid for by NHS England. They have to make sure there are enough NHS dentists to provide the dental care that we all need.

All about NHS dental services

Most high street dental practices provide both NHS and private dental care. However, whilst the majority offer NHS care for children, not as many provide NHS treatment to adults. Click here to find the surgeries offering NHS dental care in your area.

NHS dental care is free for some patients, including children, pregnant women and people on certain benefits.

Otherwise, you will be charged one of three fixed rates. These range from £21.60 for a simple treatment to £256.50 for the most complex treatments. Click here to find out more about dental charges.

One patient’s story

One patient from East Cambridgeshire shared her experience of struggling to get an appointment with her current NHS dentist.

She said ‘I have been registered with this dentist as an NHS patient for the last 7 years and over the last 2 years it has been increasingly difficult to get an appointment for both myself and my 7 yr old daughter for check-ups.

They keep cancelling them as they state that they are trying to recruit more staff but then we can’t book another appointment without great difficulty. Finally got to see the dentist for my daughter in November (following 2 cancelled appoints over a 6 month period) and the dentist said she needed to see her again in 6 months due to a possible problem.

I spoke to the receptionist that day to make the next appointment and couldn't make one for nearly 8 months as there were no other appointments available, so we booked this one.’

Before that appointment could take place, I then got a letter to state that they had to cancel this one and didn't know when the next one would be made as they are still recruiting.’

Other patients have told us about problems finding an NHS dentist, or of their NHS dentist becoming private and no longer accepting them as an NHS patient.

Welcoming and friendly

Whilst there are concerns about access to NHS appointments, we have continued to hear many accounts of excellent care.

One patient told us that ‘(the) Dentist and assistant (were) both very welcoming, patient and friendly to the children who are still a little unsure.’ Another said, ‘Always kind. Always the same dentist so he recognises us. He gives an injection without hurting me.’

Emergency and out of hours dental service

Dental Healthcare provide emergency and out of hours’ NHS dental services across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. They are part of Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust. The service includes care like pain relief or a temporary filling. It available on a first come first served basis to those who need it.

The Trust told us that in the last two years (April 16-March 18), they have had to turn away more than 26,630 patients across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. This is despite the fact they are seeing more patients than they are paid to through their NHS contract.

Many of these people are calling because they cannot get a regular NHS dentist, particularly in an emergency.

Dental Healthcare also provides community dental services for people with special care needs. Find out more about their services here.

If you need dental care in an emergency, contact your normal dentist. Some practices offer appointments at short notice. Otherwise call NHS 111. Click here to find out more.

What Healthwatch is doing

We spoke to NHS England to let them know we were worried that people were finding it too hard to get an NHS appointment. They looked into why this was happening and told us that they are trying to sort it out. We will keep in touch with them and help where we can.

In addition, NHS England are re-tendering the contracts for the out of hours' dental service and community dental services for people with special care needs. This is where they look again at what is in the contract and which organisations provide it. They do this to check that the service is working for people and is worth the money they are spending on it.

It helps NHS England improve care if they know what is working well and what could be better with the current service you are getting from your NHS dentist.

It Starts With You

Tell us about your experience and add your  voice to the conversation. We will share what you tell us with NHS England to help them improve dental services locally. We take out any information that could identify you when we do this.

You can tell us your story here online or contact our friendly team: