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NHS failing to direct patients to dentists

NHS patients are still facing problems finding an NHS dentist in England, research suggests.

NHS patients are still facing problems finding an NHS dentist in EnglandA survey found some patients were confused by charges for dental treatment as access to dentistry within the NHS has been a long running problem.

To help patients navigate their way round the system, NHS Choices now provides details of which dentists accept new NHS patients.

But researchers from consumer group Which? found three in 10 advertising availability could not actually take on new patients.

There are 7,500 dental practices that provide NHS services, but only 4,500 of them were advertising as being able to see NHS patients.

Undercover Which? researchers contacted 500 of those, choosing them randomly across the country.

As well as some not having availability, 29% of those that could take on new NHS patients had waits of at least two weeks for an appointment – with one saying it would be eight to nine months before the patient could be seen.

Some practices also made people “jump through unnecessary hoops” such as visiting the surgery to fill out forms or asking patients to pay deposits.

The Which? report said the problems needed to be investigated.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “We found it frustratingly difficult to get an appointment with a dentist, as information about availability doesn’t reflect reality.

“This is a kick in the teeth for patients and yet more evidence of poor communication from the dental sector.

“We want the Competition and Markets Authority to step in and ensure that dentists put the existing rules into practice so that people can easily find out where they can get NHS dentistry.”

The research comes after an investigation by Which?, published in January, indicated half of patients who had visited a dentist in the past six months had not seen a price list and a fifth had been unsure about the costs ahead of treatment.

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