Experiences of Dental Care Services Report: A Public Engagement (Mar 2020 - Jan 2022)

Healthwatch Stockton-on-Tees engaged with the public across the Borough to seek their views and experiences of local dental services over the past year, in addition to a number of queries on NHS dentists through the Information & Signposting service.
Graphic of clipboard and tooth


At the end of 2021, Healthwatch Stockton-on-Tees collaborated with seven North East Healthwatch to gain feedback from the general public and discover their experiences of accessing and using NHS dental services across the Borough. 

Through the survey, we wanted to understand the experiences of dental care within the Stockton community during the period from the first Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020 to January 2022.

In addition, between November 2021 and January 2022, we contacted a number of dental practices in Stockton-on-Tees with a series of questions, to understand the availability of services.

34 people took part in the Healthwatch Stockton-on-Tees-led survey and two Stockton-on-Tees dental practices responded to our request.

As part of the engagement, Healthwatch Stockton-on-Tees highlighted 35 enquiries received from March 2020 - January 2022 via telephone or email, from clients all unable to obtain a dental appointment despite calling a large number of dental practices in Stockton-on-Tees as well as contacting NHS 111. 

The findings within this report highlight that whilst there are good experiences of dental care in the Borough, general feedback indicates that staffing shortages, and historic concerns within the dental system are adversely impacting public dental health. In addition, additional health and safety measures, whilst welcome and necessary, are leading to delays in treatment.

There are some clear indicators of areas where improvements could be made including ensuring NHS Choices website contains up-to-date information, providing supportive advice to patients who are on waiting lists and often in discomfort, and improving NHS 111 advice and information.

We will use the information gathered within this report to support the national work that Healthwatch England is leading on, and also as a collective local Healthwatch, influence the North East & North Cumbria Integrated Care System to improve services locally.

Locally we are collaborating with other Healthwatch teams in the North East to provide support to our communities with initiatives such as the ‘Myth Busting’ leaflet which aims to raise awareness and support members of the public by dispelling common rumours relating to NHS dentistry.


Survey findings: Members of the public

The responses highlight experiences from March 2020 to January 2022.
Participants were invited to take part in one or more of five sections of the survey.

1. 21% (7) told us about finding a dentist.

All respondents were looking for an NHS dentist and found it very difficult to find one even though they had accessed available information on NHS Choices and direct contact with dental practices. Concerns were expressed that what had started out as minor dental issues were now becoming more serious, and respondents were worried this would adversely impact their long-term dental health. Some respondents were worried about not being able to afford private dental fees and therefore would not be able to receive dental care at any time in the near future.

2. 44% (15) told us about routine check-ups.

Respondents told us that the range of time they had to wait for a routine check-up was 
between one week to almost two years. Not surprisingly there were mixed responses to how easy it was to book routine check-ups, with over one-third finding it ‘very difficult’. Just under two-thirds of respondents were happy getting an appointment within a reasonable timescale. Likewise, respondents overall experience was fairly evenly split along a scale of ‘Terrible’ to ‘Excellent’, with just over one-third of people rating their experience as ‘excellent.

Those who were most content were not on a long waiting list and felt assured with Health and Safety measures during their check-up. Those who were least content were on a lengthy waiting list, complained about the poor communications they received from their dental practice keeping them up to date with what was happening, and expressed concerns about having to pay for private treatment in the absence of NHS availability. Concerns were also expressed around cancellations by dentists and the subsequent delay in re-booking, plus the waiting time not improving despite offering to go private.

3. 3% (1) told us about appointments for minor issues.

One survey participant responded to this question and was happy with the timescale of the NHS appointment and overall experience.

4. 9% (3) told us about urgent appointments.

Experiences of urgent appointments were generally positive. Two of the three respondents found it very easy to book an urgent / emergency appointment. The appointments offered were from the same next day or within the next two days.

However, none of the patients were offered self-help advice while waiting, but two out of three patients were given information about who to contact/what to do if the situation got worse.

5. No survey participants responded to the section about treatment at a dental hospital.

Survey findings: Dental practices

Two practices responded to the Healthwatch Stockton-on-Tees team. Both practices were not accepting new NHS patients. 

The waiting time for routine dental treatment at both practices was less than one month, and one out of two practices were currently seeing private patients.

For more detailed findings, conclusions and next steps, download the full report below.


Download a copy of the report below to read the full findings, conclusion and next steps.

If you need this document in a different format, please get in touch.


01642 688312

HWS Experiences of dental care services (Mar 2020 - Jan 2022) FINAL

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