Extra funding for some areas to improve access to NHS dentistry

Extra funding for some areas to improve access to NHS dentistry

An investment of around £332,500 will be made in Bradford allowing more than 3,500 patients to access NHS dental services. In Spalding, there will be a relaunch of services at the Community Hospital together with an independent NHS practice opening 12 hours a day, seven days a week. But in Bury St Edmunds there are no dentists currently accepting new NHS patients.

The extra funding in Bradford follows a campaign by the local paper and vigorous lobblying by local MP, Judith Cummins. NHS bosses estimate the new services should start to become available throughout May and June. Mrs Cummins said: “It’s fantastic news that more money is coming to Bradford for dentistry. We know there are NHS dentists in Bradford who want to provide their services to more people and this will help them do just that.” However, she added that there is still a "long way to go" and the fight to improve oral health in Bradford continues.

Mick Armstrong, BDA chair and local dentist told the newspaper: "Any new investment is welcome news given the scale of the crisis facing NHS dentistry in Bradford. However what patients in communities across England desperately require is a long-term commitment from Ministers to ensure they can access dental care when they need it.”

An NHS England spokesperson said: "Patients in 20 areas of the Yorkshire and the Humber region will benefit from increased availability to general dentistry. Over £4 million is being invested in the areas with the greatest need in order to increase the number of available dental appointments. NHS England is committed to ensuring that all patients that wish to access NHS dental services can do so.”

NHS England is paving the way for a January relaunch of full NHS dental services at Spalding’s Johnson Community Hospital together with an independent NHS practice opening 12 hours a day, seven days a week.

Di Pegg, head of primary care for NHS England in Lincolnshire, said: “Earlier this year we started the process of commissioning contracts for seven new dental services across Lincolnshire to ensure more people can access NHS dental treatment closer to where they live. The procurement process remains on course to conclude in the summer and the new services are expected to start in January 2019.”

Local Healthwatch chief executive Sarah Fletcher said: “On behalf of local people, Healthwatch Lincolnshire has continued to put pressure on the NHS to ensure these new services are provided as soon as possible. We are sure that patients feel they have been waiting far too long for new NHS Dentist service in Spalding. By the time the new services are fully up and running it could well be January 2019 before any patients are treated. Whilst this isn’t acceptable for everyone it is great news that Spalding within the next few months will be benefiting from additional dentists”.

In Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, however, no dentists currently accepting new NHS patients. In February, a ‘mydentist’ practice closed and anyone needing treatment must travel further afield or pay privately. Health bosses say the situation is ‘a great concern’, while Healthwatch Suffolk is advising anyone facing problems to contact their MP, saying the shortage of dentists could only be solved at a national level.

Local MP Jo Churchill said she had recently raised concerns about the issue with Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England. Healthwatch Suffolk said the East Anglian Local Dental Network have highlighted the negative impact NHS dental contracts could have on a business. “They also made us aware of the near-impossible process of passing on an NHS dental contract to another dentist, which leads to closures but no renewals,” added Mr Yacoub.

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