Find out more about local health services in Dorset.

Know where to go and where you can access health and wellbeing services and support.

NHS 111

If you have an urgent but not-life-threatening medical need, make sure you visit NHS 111 online first rather than going straight to A&E. NHS 111 online will help you right away and, if needed, a healthcare professional will call you.

NHS 111 banner - child falling of skateboard

Covid-19 vaccinations

All the latest information on COVID-19 vaccinations in Dorset can be found on the NHS Dorset HealthCare website.

Covid testing (for vulnerable adults)

You can find out which chemists are signed up to the scheme for dispensing Covid lateral flow tests by following this link.

Information on who offers the service is available under the Screening and Test Services section.

NHS e-Referral service

The NHS e-Referral Service is a national electronic referral service that allows you to choose the place, time and date for your first outpatient appointment. You may be able to book it in the GP surgery at the point of referral, or later at home on the phone or online. You can find out more about e-Referral Service on the NHS Dorset website.

Dental services

NHS Dorset has responsibility for the commissioning of NHS dentistry services in Dorset. We recognise that dentistry services, like other parts of primary care, are under significant pressure and a concern for many people. Information and frequently asked questions for patients and members of the public about NHS Dentistry in Dorset are shown below.

If you develop an urgent dental issue, telephone any NHS practice during normal working hours and explain the nature of the dental problem so that they can understand the urgency of the treatment needed.  If the practice cannot offer an appointment because their appointment slots have already been taken up, they will advise you to ring another NHS dental practice or alternatively visit NHS 111  or call 111.

The NHS 111 health advisor will assess your situation, and if you have a clinical need for urgent treatment, they will make an appointment at the nearest urgent dental care service. If the issue is not assessed to be urgent, you will be directed to another NHS dental practice and/or given self-care advice until you can get an appointment.

Patients are not registered with a dentist in the same way as a GP practice – patients can contact any NHS dental practice to access care if they have NHS appointments available.

We are aware of the extensive waiting lists for children and adults and we are exploring ways to address this issue. Although some practices are putting on additional capacity for new patients, this does not mean that they will be able to accommodate all new patient requests.

Some practices have waiting lists for patients requesting routine NHS dental care. As independent contractors, dental practices are responsible for managing their own appointment books and are best placed to advise if they can take on new patients. NHS Dorset does not hold information on practices who are currently accepting new patients so will not be able to arrange a dental appointment on your behalf.

You can search for local Dentists using the NHS Find a Dentist website or you can call 0300 123 1663 for more information. NHS Dorset has no control over this NHS website and it is mandatory for Dentists to keep it updated with their current status on accepting NHS patients.

A dental practice has an NHS contractual obligation during an open course of treatment for example crowns, bridges, and dentures. If something goes wrong, requiring repair or retreatment, within 12 months of the original treatment, then your dentist should do the necessary without any additional charges. Outside of this, a dental practice does not have any obligation to continue to offer NHS care to a person.

The ICB understands that there are long waits for dental services, including for children, and how frustrating this can be. We also acknowledge that being unable to access a dentist and poor oral health can have a profound impact on a child’s life, including lower school attendance. We’re committed to addressing this and working with our partners to do so.

Community Dental Services are provided by Somerset NHS Foundation Trust (SFT). The team at Somerset provide Special Care and Paediatric Dentistry (SCPD) which is the treatment of:

  • Adult patients who cannot be treated in a High Street Dental practice due to the nature of their physical or mental disabilities, or because they have a need for additional support to receive treatment.
  • Children who may have needs as described above, or who have more complex or significant treatment needs.

Referrals to the service can by made by a dentist or other healthcare professional using the forms on the website.

Community Dental Services are provided by Somerset NHS Foundation Trust (SFT). The team at Somerset provide Special Care and Paediatric Dentistry (SCPD) to patients who cannot be treated in a High Street Dental Practice, which includes domiciliary visits.  Referrals to the service can be made by a dentist or other healthcare professional using the forms on the website.

As of June 2023, there are 96 dental practices in Dorset that offer NHS services. Furthermore, we have recently acquired additional capacity in Poole, which will enable us to provide an extra 3,000 dental appointments.

Currently, there is no system in place for assigning members of the public to Primary Care dentistry. Each practice manages its own availability and is required to publish it on the NHS Find a Dentist site. While some dental practices maintain waiting lists, this is not mandatory

NHS Dorset is responsible for planning and meeting the healthcare needs of people and communities in Dorset as the commissioners of healthcare and have responsibility for commissioning dental services.  We recognise that dentistry services, like other parts of primary care, are under significant pressure and are facing a number of challenges.

As part of their duties, NHS Dorset regularly reviews the performance of all NHS dental contracts and supports dental practices in delivering their contracted activity to ensure they reach their maximum potential. Furthermore, the team identifies opportunities for commissioning additional NHS work from dental practices that have the capacity to do so. To address the current shortages, NHS Dorset has implemented local flexibilities for dentists to deliver their contracts and introduced a successful scheme called “stabilisation” to provide improved care packages for urgent dental needs.

NHS Dorset is also working closely with the Local Dental Committee (LDC) and the Dental Networks to try and build capacity in Dorset, noting there is a National Contract Reform Programme being undertaken by NHS England.

NHS Dorset are currently taking a range of actions to improve dental care availability and preventative programmes for patients without a regular dentist. These actions include:

  • Commissioning additional urgent dental care appointments that patients can access by calling NHS 111. In the Southwest, there are now 356 additional appointments every week, including 35 in the Dorset area.
  • Providing additional appointments for those who seek urgent dental care and who have a number of dental issues that need addressing, as part of unscheduled dental care.
  • Offering seven dental helplines across the Southwest. Patients can access the helplines via NHS 111, which can allocate appointments if required.
  • Participating in a national pilot called ‘Child Friendly Dental Practices’ where the oral health needs of children and young people are prioritised. A referral-based service is available for Dorset residents via a practice in the South-East of Dorset.
  • Supporting the First Dental Steps initiative, which trains health visitors and midwives to give oral health care advice and provide care packs (toothbrushes and toothpaste) to families with children under two. This scheme will be run in partnership with the Local Authority.
  • Continuing to work to secure additional urgent care provision that patients can also access via NHS 111.
  • Finally, providing eight sessions of stabilisation per week in Dorset equating to about 105 appointments, providing definitive treatment to patients requiring urgent care.

Before any treatment is started, you will be asked to sign a personal dental plan. This will explain the NHS treatment the dentist is going to carry out and the cost. If any private treatment has been discussed, this cost will be listed separately. NHS dentists provide all treatment that the NHS dentist feels is clinically necessary to keep teeth, gums, and mouth healthy.

NHS Dental charges from 24 April 2023 are:

  • Band 1 course of treatment – £25.80 (examination, diagnosis, scale, and polish if clinically needed, preventative care and advice on how to prevent future problems.)
  • Band 2 course of treatment – £70.70 (everything listed in Band 1, plus any further treatment such as fillings, root canal work or removal of teeth).
  • Band 3 course of treatment – £306.80 (everything listed in Band 1 & 2, plus crowns, dentures, bridges, and other laboratory work).
  • Emergency dental treatment – £25.80 (covers emergency care, such as pain relief and temporary fillings.)

Additional information on dental costs can be found at NHS UK.

You are entitled to free NHS dental treatment if at the start of the treatment you are:

  • Under 18, or under 19 and in full-time education
  • Pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months
  • Being treated in an NHS hospital and your treatment is carried out by the Hospital Dentist. You may have to pay for dentures or bridges.
  • Receiving low-income benefits, or you’re under 20 and a dependent of someone receiving low-income benefits.

More information can be found at NHS UK. There is also a service to check what help you could get and how to apply.

Many practices offer both NHS and private treatment. We expect practices to use their NHS funding to provide the maximum possible amount of safe care for patients, and we are supporting practices with this approach.

Mixed practices tend to have separate appointment books for both NHS and private treatment, and they may have different staff teams. They should provide NHS services during their contracted opening hours; however, because of high demand, they may have used up their available NHS appointments so the practice may, therefore, offer the private option to patients.

Private dentists’ prices can significantly differ based on their skill level, experience, location, and availability. Additional factors such as extra specialised training, appointment availability outside regular hours, and practice location can also influence costs. It’s important to note that prices do not always indicate quality of service. To understand why a dentist charges more or less than others in the area, it’s best to ask them directly. Most dentists are happy to explain their pricing and the rationale behind it.

There are several ways to reduce the cost of private dental care. One option is to get dental insurance that can cover some of the expenses. It’s important to compare different insurance plans to find the best one for your needs. Additionally, shopping around for dental providers and comparing their prices for specific services can help save money. Negotiating fees with your dentist, especially for expensive procedures, is another possibility. Visiting a dental school where students, supervised by experienced dentists, may offer services at a lower cost is another option. Finally, some dental offices may offer payment plans that allow patients to spread out the cost of treatment over time.

To raise a complaint, you can either ask your practice for a copy of their complaints procedure or contact the NHS directly via our customer services team. More information about the NHS complaints procedure can be found on the NHS Dorset website. Please note that the Ombudsman can only intervene once you have attempted to resolve the issue locally, with the practice or ICB.

If you require assistance in making a complaint, The Advocacy People offer free advice and support for complaints regarding the National Health Service in Dorset. You can reach them at:

The Advocacy People

PO Box 375


TN34 9HU

Telephone:  0300 440 9000


Text: 80800 using keyword PEOPLE, followed by your message.

To support access to care for all, practices should have arrangements in place to use translators and interpreters for patients who require support with communication.

Other useful links/information

Dental services – NHS

How can you find an NHS dentist? Healthwatch

 Dental Health

Dental health tips – NHS England

Dental health advice – Dental Health Foundation

We are trying several initiatives to both recruit and retain dental clinicians in the NHS. Nationally, the NHS Workforce Plan looks to substantially increase the number of training place over the next 5-10 years. In the South West, we are supporting existing dentists through a peer review project to help them feel more supported and to be able to meet with other clinicians to share best practice. We are also working with a college in Somerset (and soon to be one in Cornwall) to support dental nurses to undertake apprenticeships, to increase their training and development. We are also supporting work experience to attract students into dentistry and support dentists who have qualified outside of the UK to come to and stay in the region.

Find a local health service

General Practitioner (GP)


Urgent Treatment Centre or Minor Injuries Unit


Dentist – Dorset ICB have no control over this website

Access to out of hours healthcare


Sexual health

Mental health and learning disabilities

Learning disability and autism

Your choices in the NHS

In many cases you have the legal right to choose where you have your NHS treatment. The NHS is offering more and more options to enable you to make choices that best suit your circumstances, giving you greater control of your care, and hopefully better results.