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Over 100,000 extra dental appointments this year – but missed appointments continue to bite

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The number of additional dental appointments provided this year has reached 109,000, according to the latest Welsh Government data.

Welsh Government changes to NHS dentistry contracts, offered to practices since last April, include a requirement for NHS practices to see new patients. The Welsh Government expects an estimated 112,000 new NHS patient appointments will be possible this financial year.

However, the Chief Dental Officer for Wales has warned that missed appointments are impacting on people who need dental treatment the most. Andrew Dickenson has asked patients to avoid missing appointments where possible or notify their practice in advance when they are unable to attend.

According to the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA), 9.4% of all NHS scheduled appointments last year were lost due to patient non-attendance, the equivalent of 3.5 hours of clinical time each week for every practice.

Eluned Morgan, the Minister for Health and Social Services, said:

“We want everyone in Wales to be able to access NHS dental care, if they want it. From this year, we’re providing an additional £2 million a year to support increasing access to dental services throughout Wales.

I’m really pleased that we’ve already broken the 100,000 extra appointments barrier this year, which shows that our reforms, made in partnership with the industry, are resulting in clear positive outcomes for patients.”

Andrew Dickenson added:

“We’ve made great progress since our reforms to NHS dental contract. 78% of practices have by now signed up to the contract variation, which is really bearing fruit in terms of new patient appointments.

But missed appointments continue to be a real issue, adding up to the equivalent in clinical time of losing 20 full time dentists a year.

It’s understandable that things come up, meaning people can’t always keep appointments. But my key message is – please “cancel, don’t break” appointments – contact your practice as soon as you know you can’t attend. That way practices can make time for other patients, enabling even more people to get speedier access to dental treatment.”

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