PATIENTS in distress have struggled to access dental care in Swindon during the pandemic, according to a new report.
Healthwatch Swindon has released its annual report revealing the health and social care experiences of 1,266 people.
Over the past year, one of the main themes emerging from feedback collected by the patient watchdog was the difficulty in accessing NHS dental appointments.
Main issues included issues with scheduling appointments for routine and emergency care, prioritizing private patients, and insufficient information on dental surgery websites.
It represented almost 12% of the comments received.
The team received calls from people unable to find an NHS dentist because they were suffering from persistent pain.
Some said they were unable to eat properly or experienced weight loss and depression.
It reads: “Essentially, patients who have not been able to access the treatment they desperately need must be able to do so urgently and in a way that does not face crippling costs.
“Thanks to people sharing their experiences in dentistry, we were able to monitor what is happening in Swindon and use what we heard to fuel the regional image in the South West, as well as the national image, of a growing dental care crisis.
Staff and volunteers called practices to check availability.
The report states: ‘We have updated our website with this information, while also helping people make an appointment with the NHS dentist, in the rare event that an appointment was available.
“We attended the quarterly meetings of the South West Dental Network group and contributed to a presentation bringing together feedback from all South West Healthwatches. ”
Healthwatch Swindon Development Manager Jo Osorio said: ‘While we cannot delight more NHS dentists, our feedback goes to the NHS regionally and nationally to influence their ordering of dental services. ”
They will meet with the NHS chief dentist for England to “highlight the crisis that needs to be tackled”.
Jo added: “As more changes loom for health and social care services, it is more important than ever that local people give Healthwatch their feedback on their experience – good or bad. less good.
“We use this local knowledge in our reports to planners and service providers to influence improvements where they are needed and praise where they are due. ”
The group is urging more patients to share their views and experiences to help them improve services.
To read the full report, visit www.healthwatchswindon.org.uk