Karen Ross, AFF Health & Additional Needs Specialist, shares the latest updates on NHS dental and orthodontic provision – topics that generate a number of enquiries from Army families…


FROM recent enquiries, we identified problem hotspots for NHS dental places in both Devon and Cornwall and in the Catterick area. Also, as part of our health month in March, our AFF co-ordinators asked you about NHS dental provision. We’ve used this information to pinpoint and understand other areas where there may be issues.

Orthodontic waiting lists and transferring of ongoing orthodontic treatment were other areas of concern that you fed back to us.

One family said: “We’ve lived in Catterick Garrison since August 2017 and haven’t been able to register with a dentist.

“My husband is in the Army, we have three children and can’t get them registered. I am also pregnant and unable to get seen. I don’t drive so trying to get the children further afield is such hard work.”

What is AFF doing?

As a result, we’ve been working hard to resolve and improve some of these issues.

I’ve spoken to the NHS England dental commissioners in Devon and Cornwall and in Yorkshire and Humber. This has raised an awareness of the numbers of Service families having problems and what your unique issues are – which are primarily due to frequent moves.

Unfortunately, there’s no overnight solution to some of these concerns due to NHS retention and capacity issues. However, NHS England in Devon and Cornwall agreed to buy extra NHS activity from five practices across Plymouth to provide spaces for those who have been waiting to access a routine appointment.

In the Catterick area, the NHS has been working on increasing capacity at some existing dental practices, keeping the NHS Choices website updated and ensuring that when patients call 111, they have current information about emergency dental care.

Highlighting issues

I spoke to the director of clinical practice at the British Orthodontic Society who passed on the concerns that families have with orthodontic treatment to the NHS England Dental Policy and Contracts Primary Care Commissioning team. We discussed transferring waiting list places and ongoing treatment. They have agreed to write some guidance for military families, which should be available as Army&You goes to press. We will update the AFF website with more details as soon as we have them.

Please continue to report your dental or orthodontic issues to AFF so that we can raise them with the NHS. Email Karen at additionalneeds@aff.org.uk

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