In September 2016 we published the report “Dentistry Mystery Shopping”. This looked at how easy it was for those living in Buckinghamshire to access NHS dental treatment.

We made specific recommendations to dental practices in Bucks stating that they must provide accurate information on NHS Choices regarding their opening times and their NHS patient acceptance information – ensuring that it is kept up to date.

Since we published our findings, NHS Digital have made changes to NHS Choices to encourage dental practices to update their information regularly. We wanted to see what improvements had been made since our October 2016 report

What did we do?

On 8th August and again on 23rd October 2017, we checked NHS Choices to see how many of the 77 dental practices we originally looked at in Buckinghamshire had information on:

  • accepting NHS patients by referral only
  • accepting new adult NHS patients
  • accepting new adult patients entitled to free NHS dental care
  • accepting children as new NHS patients and
  • urgent NHS dental appointments.

What did we discover?

Our results show that the recent changes to NHS Choices have not, so far, resulted in any
improvements in the information available. The results, summarized in our report, show
that the number of dentists proving full or partial information has decreased since October 2016.

What are our recommendations?


  • Urge the remaining dental surgeries to update their entries so that patients have access to the best possible information when they need it.
  • Recommend that the NHS commissioners of dentistry services (working with NHS Digital) identify what is preventing dentists from updating the information.
  • Welcome the changes introduced by NHS Choices to improve the quality of information available to patients, however, our view is that the website could be more helpful.

What are we doing to ensure our recommendations are achieved?

We have alerted Healthwatch England to our findings who have contacted NHS Digital. We will also pass our findings onto the NHS England South Commissioners so that they are aware
that the changes have not, so far, resulted in any improvement in the information available and will ask what they are doing to address this.

You can download the full report to learn about the project in more detail.


Published on 5 Dec, 2017 (updated 23 Oct, 2019)

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2 comments on "Follow-up on dentistry mystery shopping"

  • Healthwatch Bucks replied on 8th December 2017

    Available places on an Nhs dental list vary from month to month .if you want dentists to enter data on the NHS choices website then you will have to make the process simple because we are too busy trying to squeeze the meagre funding for resources to actually treat people and tick all the useless boxes for the cqc , compass, hmrc etcetera to be devoting more than 5 minutes per month to this. Therein lies your solution. Doubt you will do anything about it . Nice to know there is enough funding for ‘ consultants ‘ to keep producing reports. Where would we be without you?!

    • Healthwatch Bucks replied on 8th December 2017

      Thanks for your comment.

      Healthwatch Bucks is an independent, publicly funded organisation. We exist to ensure that people’s needs are at the heart of health and social care. We listen to people and share their views with those with the power to make local services better. In this case, our findings have been shared with NHS Digital, via Healthwatch England, because, as you say, it seems the process of updating NHS Choices could be improved.

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