NHS patients in Oxfordshire struggle to get dental appointments

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Most dentists in Oxfordshire are not accepting new NHS patients, according to National Health Service data.

Dentists providing NHS treatment are listed online and practices must keep their contact details up to date on the health service’s website.

According to NHS Find a Dentist online serviceof the 54 dentists listed online for ‘Oxford’, only two were clearly open to all NHS patients without referral and three were only open to children under 18.

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The website showed 15 dentists were only open to new NHS patients who have been referred, but referrals can usually only be made when a patient is already registered with a dentist.

The website also says 21 dental practices had not recently updated their records to report whether they were accepting new NHS patients.

Here is a map of the practices on the website listed under “Oxford”:

NHS data also shows that during the pandemic only around a third of adults in Oxfordshire attended dental appointments as coronavirus caused disruption.

There has been a sharp drop in the number of people visiting the dentist in 2020 and 2021, with millions of people across the country missing out on checkups and treatments.

The figures are proof that NHS dentistry is at the ‘last chance show’ and in dire need of reform, according to the British Dental Association.

The recent decline of NHS dentistry has been linked to health service contracts which see dentists paid the same per unit of work – no matter how complex that job.

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In the two years to December 2021, 198,268 adults in Oxfordshire attended an appointment, equivalent to 36% of the population.

That’s significantly down from the 24 months to December 2019, when 267,547 – 49% – attended.

Data for children is recorded on an annual basis and shows that the volume of dental visits, which has fallen significantly during the pandemic, has shown signs of improvement over the past year.

Last year, 48% of Oxfordshire’s child population – 71,660 young people – saw their dentist, up from 34% in 2020 and 64% in 2019.

Between March and June 2020, dental practices were instructed to close and postpone non-emergency routine dental care to limit the spread of the virus.

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According to the association, more than a year of dentistry has been lost due to the pandemic, with the association’s research showing that 40 million fewer treatments were provided between April 2020 and December 2021.

The association urged the government to bring “meaningful and urgent reform” to the industry, saying underfunding, cuts and failed contracts had also contributed to problems in the sector.

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