NHS Gloucestershire welcomes publication of the NHS Dental Recovery Plan which outlines new measures to improve access to NHS dentistry across England.

As in other parts of the country, access to NHS dentistry in Gloucestershire has been very challenging with demand for care outweighing the available appointments currently provided.

We are absolutely determined to improve the situation for residents and are actively working with local dentists, with help from patient representatives, to bring more services on board.

We are now taking time to consider the National Recovery Dental Plan for Gloucestershire, and how it aligns with our existing ambitious plans.

We are pleased that our local Primary Care Dental Commissioning Plan, supported by a recently appointed Dental Clinical Lead, reflects many of the ambitions set out in the national plan.

Our key aims are to:

  • deliver consistent, high quality dental services and care, with a particular focus on improving access to dentistry, particularly in some of the county’s most deprived areas
  • support providers to recruit, retain and train all dental staff by offering more flexible training and working opportunities
  • work with our communities to improve the oral health of people across the county, with a particular focus on health inequalities, children, and older people.

We are making good progress. Plans are well underway to ensure that anyone who does not have a dentist can access an urgent dental appointment.

There are now urgent care appointments available each week at clinics across the county, including weeknight and weekend clinics. Patients can access these appointments by contacting NHS111.

Last year, we invited dental practices to provide additional NHS appointments for patients not registered with a dentist to help them avoid the need for frequent urgent support.

Five practices signed up to the service, and these appointments started in September 2023. Nearly 200 additional appointments, which may include follow-up appointments, are now provided each week.

We are continuing to take forward discussions with partners about the potential development of a Centre of Dental Excellence for the county; this facility would improve staff training and recruitment and improve access for patients.

In the short-term, NHS Gloucestershire is finalising proposals for an incentive programme to encourage post-foundation dentists to remain in the county. Our Dental Clinical Lead is also taking forward work with dental practices to better understand their workforce challenges, which, with support from NHS England, will help to inform the development of a workforce strategy for the county.

We have two current initiatives that support improvements in oral health.

At Home Dental provide a supervised toothbrushing service in some schools for children aged 3 – 5, with children brushing their teeth with fluoride toothpaste every day under staff supervision.

We are working closely with At Home Dental and Public Health colleagues, who hold the statutory responsibility for Oral Health Improvement, to support the implementation of the programme across Gloucestershire which started in January 2024.

First Dental Steps is a new service for babies provided by Health Visiting teams at the baby’s 9- and 12-month reviews. It offers parents oral health advice, and they are given a dental pack.

With publication of the National Dental Recovery Plan, we look forward to exploring how our approach to oral health can be further enhanced for the benefit of children and young people.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is NHS dentistry funded in Gloucestershire?

NHS Gloucestershire has held the budget for NHS dentistry in the county since April 2023. Our budget for 2023/24 is £32.4m.

We await further information about additional funding to attract new dentists and improve access following the national announcement on the Dental Recovery Plan. This includes top-up and new patient payments for dentists to improve access for those who have not seen a dentist in two years or more and the funding for under-served areas.

Locally, NHS Gloucestershire, together with colleagues from across the South West, has already begun to consider increasing the value of units of dental activity from April, so we welcome the national plan which will support us to take this forward.

How does dental registration and access currently work?

Dental practices are independent businesses, often providing a combination of NHS and private dentistry.

Patients are not registered with a dentist in the same way they are with a General Practitioner (doctor) where there is a catchment area, and individuals can access services at a dental practice located in any area if the practice is accepting new patients.

Dental practices can choose whether they provide NHS treatment to patients or limit the amount of services depending on whether they have capacity under the terms of their contract.

To check on NHS dental registration availability, patients should visit www.nhs.uk. Practices providing NHS treatments are listed here – each practice updates their information.

What are you doing to improve access to NHS dentistry?

We have been focusing on putting arrangements in place to ensure that anyone who does not have a dentist can access an urgent dental appointment.

There are now urgent care appointments available each week at clinics across the county, including weeknight and weekend clinics. Patients can access these appointments by contacting NHS 111.

Last year, we invited dental practices to provide additional appointments for not registered with a dental practice to help them avoid the need for frequent urgent support. Five practices signed up to the service, and these appointments started in September 2023. Nearly 200 additional appointments, which may include follow-up appointments, are now provided each week.

How long are current waiting lists?

The way that NHS dental contracts are regulated and managed means that providers are not mandated to hold a patient register and they are able to move patients from a practice list; this is not the same as when you are registered with a GP Practice. An early priority has been to improve access to urgent appointments and to provide care to patients who are not registered with a dental practice. We also know how important opening up additional NHS dental places at local practices is to our residents.

Will Gloucestershire receive a Dental Van?

NHS Gloucestershire is pleased to be one of the areas that will receive a dental van to help us reach our most isolated communities; we welcome all opportunities to increase capacity for local people and will look at the best way of taking this forward. Our initial focus is on improving urgent appointments in a variety of locations across the county.

Additional background information

Gloucestershire Community Dental Service

Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust (GHC) provides the Gloucestershire Community Dental Service which operates across six specialist sites within the county. Services are available to patients who would benefit from special care dentistry, such as relief from acute dental pain, infection, bleeding or trauma, following referral from a health or dental care professional.

Hospital dental services

Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust provides oral and maxillofacial surgery, including outpatient orthodontic treatments and inpatient planned and emergency procedures.