Agenda item

Somerset Oral Health update

To receive the report.


The Committee considered a report on Oral Health Services in Somerset. The report set out the statutory responsibility of Somerset County Council to promote oral health. The duty of the local authority, under the Health and Social Care Act (2012), is to provide or make arrangements to secure the provision of an oral health promotion programme and oral health survey.

- oral health surveys to facilitate

i) assessment and monitoring of oral health needs

ii) planning and evaluation of oral health promotion programmes

iii) planning and evaluation of the arrangements for provision of dental

services as part of the health service

iv) where there are water fluoridation programmes, the monitoring and

reporting of the effect of these programmes.

The oral health promotion strategy and commissioning programme supports

the vision in Somerset’s County Plan to help people help themselves and target our resources where they are needed most. The oral health strategy and the commissioning of, an all age, oral health promotion service supports the population to develop healthy behaviours and promote behaviour change to improve the oral health of Somerset’s population.


The Committee noted the detail of how the NHS Dental contract operated. There are 66 Dentists who are contracted to undertake 908,968 units of activity. This contract gives 54.30% of the population of Somerset access to an NHS dentist, the ideal is 60%. The main challenge to achieving this target is in recruitment. Recent graduates want to stay in the big cities where opportunities are greater, and they tend to gravitate towards private practice where the earning power is greatest. The Committee heard that there have recently been three contract terminations in Somerset and despite the requirement to give three months’ notice it can take up to 12 months to find a replacement.

During discussion the Committee raised the following: -

The 60% target for access to an NHS Dentist was challenged as not being sufficiently ambitious. Whilst accepting that young dentists may want to stay in the city Somerset has much to offer. The need to allow for patient choice and the need to be efficient is why the target is set at 60%. While the Committee accepted that was the National target they wanted to express a more ambitious target for Somerset and wanted this made clear to the Chief Dental Officer when she visited Somerset on 22 May.


The Committee were interested in the number of patients using private dentistry but were informed that this was not collected as part of the survey. They were also concerned that there was no data currently available that recorded the number of children not accessing dental services.


The Committee were interested in the NICE recommendations for check-ups. It was confirmed that they can range between 6 and 36 months depending on the recommendation of the dentist and the state of the teeth.

The Committee also suggested that it would be useful to have some information on the availability of dental services across the County overlaid with areas of highest deprivation and population. This mapping work will be undertaken by the report author and the relevant person in SCC.


The Scrutiny for Policies, Adults and Health agreed to write to the Chief Dental Officer prior to her visit to Somerset to challenge the target of 60% access to a dentist.

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