SOME dental practices in Wiltshire have waiting lists of up to 18 months while others offer discounted private treatment to skip the queue, a bleak watchdog report has found.

In October 2021, Healthwatch Wiltshire identified 48 dental practices across the county – this excluded entirely private practices.

The group then asked each practice three questions:

  • Are dental practices taking on any new adult NHS patients and what are the waiting times?
  • Are dental practices taking on any new child NHS patients and what are the waiting times?
  • How up to date is the NHS website that lists dental practices

Out of those practices only eight (16 per cent) were taking new child patients.

Five out of eight of the practices quoted child waiting times of anywhere between six weeks and three months.

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Nine of the practices contacted by Healthwatch Wiltshire who said they were not taking on new patients offered private treatment through a discounted payment scheme myOptions, or directly paid private care.

This, the report suggests, means that dentistry is available but not for NHS treatment.

Furthermore out of the 48 practices, 37 (77 per cent) are not up to date on the NHS website.

Practices stated they had waiting lists of 18 months or more. One practice stated they have 700 people on their NHS waiting list.

According to Healthwatch Wiltshire, dentistry was in the top four of people’s reasons for contacting it in 2021.

It told the LDRS that the vast majority of the feedback from users was negative.

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This was where people were attempting to register with an NHS dentist or seeking a follow-up to an emergency appointment.

Healthwatch added that a high number of these contacts were from military families looking for an NHS dentist. ”


An experience shared by Wiltshire weekly readers, as many said they too have struggled to get appointments.

“Yes nearest one in Salisbury and I live in Warminster. My dentist struck me off for agreeing with about 30 others on facebook who were saying how bad they are,” said Paul Cox.

“So been without a dentist for about six months now.”

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Lennie J Townsend said: “Yes, been waiting over 6 years now. In need of dental treatment that I just cannot afford privately.”

Sharon Harvey-Evans said: “Yes the dentist I was with cancelled on me three times during Covid with just a few hours cancellation.

“They told me they will rebook me in and now I'm no longer on their books as it's been too long since an appointment.

“And cannot find another dentist taking on whatsoever.”

Alison Mcdonagh said: “I am NHS,my son who is nine has no NHS place at our dentist,I have to pay for him!she told me it would be a six month waiting list for him, that was over twelve months ago, my dentist keeps cancelling my appointments and then sending me a letter telling me I need to reschedule an appointment as I don’t seem to have followed up on my treatment,I can’t bloody win!”

Helen Chick Cunningham wrote: “My dentist cancelled three times and each time it was the day before my appointment after they had sent me the form to fill in.

“The last time they cancelled was last February, they text me and said I wasn’t to contact them they would be in contact to arrange another appointment in due course.

“I’m still waiting 11 months later… how long is due course?”


When asked why they were not taking on new patients, practices gave reasons such as a shortage of dentists, practice had reached its NHS cap, the impact of Covid and dental practices changing their operations to accommodate more private treatments.

Since 2013 access to NHS dentistry has been a recurring issue for Healthwatch teams across England.

Healthwatch England’s 2016 report found that the situation had not improved and that there was a lack of consistent guidance on how to access dental care.

A CQC report, based on data from NHS Business Services Authority on the total units of NHS dental activity (UDA) recorded – in 2020, this was 58 per cent lower than it was in 2019.

In May 2020 these levels were at their lowest with a 98 per cent reduction on the same month in 2019.

These issues have only been compounded by Covid as services were only steadily restored in June 2020.

Nationally, Healthwatch reported that a lack of access to dentistry has intensified throughout the pandemic.

Digging into the data of more than 8,000 people’s experience between April 2020 and September 2021 found; four in five people have struggled to access NHS dentists.