Long-term plans to improve NHS dental services in Norfolk and Waveney

13th May 2024

NHS Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care Board (ICB) has published its Long-Term Dental Plan for NHS services using feedback from over 2000 local people.

The plan lays out the key areas of focus and priority commissioning activities for the ICB over the coming two to five years to carry on the work of stabilising and improving patient access to NHS dental services.

It has been directed by feedback from more than 2000 people who took part in a Dental Stakeholder Engagement Survey earlier this year, sharing their personal experiences and what matters to them and their families when it comes to dental care. 

People’s views overwhelming supported the priorities set out by the plan which covers primary, secondary and community dental services and key areas such as:

  • Improving access to services with an initial focus on children and young people and those living in areas of deprivation (reducing health inequalities)
  • Oral health education and prevention for children and young people, and adults
  • Continuing workforce recruitment and retention efforts to build up the number of dentists and dental care professionals coming to live and work in Norfolk and Waveney
  • Further development of Level 2 (enhanced services such as oral surgery) and Secondary Care dental services (acute dental services)
  • Special Care dental services for individuals with learning disabilities, autism, sensory impairment, physical or mental disabilities
  • Orthodontic services for children under 18 years of age.

The Dental Long-Term Plan was approved at the Primary Care Commissioning Committee on 7 May alongside a Dental Workforce Plan and programme investment of £1.2 million to recruit, retain and support those working in the profession.

The ICB recognises that there are challenges to overcome to improve patient access to NHS dental services, and that sustainable improvement will take time. Collaborative working with dental care providers and healthcare partners across the Integrated Care System (ICS) and the wider region are included in the plan as essential to supporting the needs of local communities. This partnership working will be key to developing integrated care pathways to improve the experiences of patients and their long-term health outcomes.

Improving patient access to NHS dental services, increasing the number of dentists and dental care professionals working in the area, and improving oral health in children and adults are some of the key aims for the plan. As these aims start to be met, the ICB hopes to see a reduction in the shift to private dental practice and referrals to secondary care for extractions.

The Long-Term Plan builds on the priorities and work undertaken through the Short-Term Dental Plan which was published last autumn, and follows a period of stakeholder and public engagement earlier this year.

Sadie Parker, Director of Primary Care at NHS Norfolk and Waveney, said: “We are really pleased to be able to progress with our longer-term plans to develop and improve NHS dental services for our people and communities.

“We know how challenging it is for patients to access NHS dental services in Norfolk and Waveney, and through our Long-Term Dental Plan we are totally committed to doing all we can to stablise and improve dental care so that people can access the treatment they really need.

“I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to share their views through our dental survey. The feedback we received has been enormously helpful for us to gain valuable insight into people’s experiences, and check our priorities are aligned when it comes to the future of dental care.”

The publication of the Long-Term Dental Plan comes just over one year after the ICB took on delegated commissioning responsibility for NHS dental services from NHS England in April 2023, and against a national backdrop of primary care workforce shortages and increasing patient demand for services.

In Norfolk and Waveney, the impact of these challenges is a lack of access to oral health prevention and treatment services. The ICB is grateful to the NHS dental professionals who have dedicated their time to support the ICB to develop these plans. The ICB remains committed to working with local dental care providers and wider system partners to improve patient access to and experience with NHS dental services and improving the quality of care for all people and communities living in Norfolk and Waveney.