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Accessing dental care and cancer services during the pandemic

19 May 2021
  • Public

This month’s insight report looks at the impact of the pandemic on access to dental services, and gives examples of good practice and collaboration across local services to deliver care for people with cancer, or suspected cancer.

Our report looks at the findings from our analysis of how dental practices have managed and supported people to access appropriate treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Like all health and care services, the pandemic has created challenges for how primary dental care is delivered.

Access to NHS dental care for people has been highlighted as an issue since long before the spread of COVID-19, and there are clear signs that this has been compounded by the pandemic as it has reduced capacity.

Like other services, dental providers showed agility in adopting new ways of working over the last 14 months. As well as preparing for potential staffing issues and responding to changes around infection prevention and control, we heard of updated triaging processes, additional clinical hours being offered, increased working with sister practices and working to identify and support the needs of vulnerable people.

However, there has been an increase in feedback from the public expressing difficulties in accessing dental care, which can have a strong impact on their health and wellbeing. While there were examples of dental services working well with other health and care providers in a community, people did not always get prompt, joined-up care.

As the sector continues to face the challenges of providing care at this difficult time, providers and the wider sector have the opportunity to influence and shape what planning and provision looks like. This includes how confidence might be restored so access to dental services is available for everyone, and how access to urgent dental care might be improved. In addition, along with others working in the health and social care system, dental professionals have a valuable role to play in advocating for people using services from within local systems and influencing decisions around commissioning and capacity.

Our report also shares examples of the innovation and positive ways in which services in local areas have worked collaboratively to care for people with cancer, or suspected cancer. We are sharing these examples from our provider collaboration review (PCR) early to support learning and recovery across cancer provision efforts nationally. Full findings will follow in July.

The PCR looks at how the pandemic has affected people’s access to cancer services and their treatment. Our analysis draws on discussions with system leaders, individual services, staff and the voluntary sector involved in people’s cancer care. Additionally, we continue to update our regular data on deaths in care homes and the number of deaths of people detained under the Mental Health Act.

Last updated:
19 May 2021