A former healthcare facility providing Somerset residents with urgent access to dentists could be turned into a private home if plans are approved.
Peter Noblett of Hoghton, located between Preston and Blackburn in Lancashire, applied for the conversion of the former Glastonbury Dental Access Center on the corner of High Street and Wells Road into a domestic dwelling. The center – which has been closed for several years – has provided emergency care to patients in the Glastonbury area who have been unable to access regular dental care.
Mendip District Council is expected to make a decision on the conversion proposals in late spring. The property is next to Glastonbury Health Center and a short distance from SpaDental practice on Lambbrook Street.
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Mr Noblett intends the property to have two bedrooms with a kitchen, living room, bathroom and cloakroom, with laundry and storage space being provided on the ground floor. Existing access from Wells Road will remain unchanged, with the claimant arguing that “as this will be for domestic traffic, rather than dental client traffic, this should represent considerably less vehicle movement than previously”.
Dental access centers provide dental care to patients who cannot reasonably access dental care through conventional routes – for example, people who cannot access emergency appointments through their practice local. The NHS currently operates three full-time dental access centers in Bridgwater, Taunton and Yeovil, with a further facility in Frome operating three days a week. A fifth such facility in Wellington is currently closed for unspecified reasons.
Somerset has struggled over the past two decades to recruit and retain NHS dentists, with health bosses saying in late January that persuading dentists to work in the county was ‘like trying to convince a turkey to vote for Christmas”.
The problems have been blamed on a range of factors, including opportunities within private care, the lack of clear pathways between training and joining a practice in Somerset, and contract reforms introduced by the Labor government in the time in 2006. The District Council is expected to make a decision on the plans before the summer.