7:30 a.m. July 18, 2022
Experts estimate that a million NHS dental appointments have been lost in Suffolk over the past two years and just one district is taking on new NHS patients.
New data from the British Dental Association has revealed the extent of the county’s dental crisis.
From April 2020 to April 2022, the BDA estimates that over one million NHS appointments were lost across the county.
This includes appointments for over 190,000 children.
Based on typical levels of care, the association says around 1,510,223 treatments would have been given in the absence of Covid-19.
In fact, the county saw a total of 397,459.
Additionally, Mid Suffolk is the only district in five currently accepting new adult NHS patients – despite just 16.7% of dentists in this area doing so.
This means that only 3.3% of dental practices in the whole of Suffolk are accepting new adult NHS patients.
Eddie Crouch, president of the British Dental Association, said: “NHS dentistry is on the brink and families in Suffolk are paying the price.
“Underfunded and overstretched, the service is now haemorrhaging talent, while families are unable to get the care they desperately need.
“It’s a crisis made in Westminster.
“Until ministers put in place real reform and fair funding, we will not see progress.”
NHS dentistry in the county has long been the target of fierce criticism, with campaigners previously warning it ‘may soon disappear’.
Last year Waveney MP Peter Aldous warned of a ‘dental desert’ if the situation did not improve quickly.
Data released in January revealed there had been a decrease of at least 27% in the number of NHS dentists in the county since 2020, while the Department of Health ranked the West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG ) as the third most affected area in England in terms of personnel losses.
A number of county towns without NHS dental services have been visited by mobile clinics from dental charity Dentaid.
Organized by the campaign group, Toothless in Suffolk, both Leiston, which has not had an NHS dentist since April 2021, and Bury St Edmunds saw pop-up clinics earlier this year.
The team attending Bury St Edmunds were forced to turn away a number of patients after reaching capacity.
Speaking on the latest figures from the BDA, Mark Jones, Toothless England’s English coordinator, said: “With each release of NHS dentistry figures comes the additional awareness that NHS commissioners in the East of England and those pulling the strings in Westminster have utterly failed the people of Suffolk, and have done so for over a decade.
“It would take a massive effort to restore this most essential NHS service to where it needs to be.”
In a bid to tackle the crisis, a new dental project set up to bring more NHS dentists to the area will see a new center develop at the University of Suffolk.
The center will be a place for training dentists and treating NHS patients.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “We have financially supported NHS dental practices and reduced expectations for the number of patients who can be seen in order to protect patients and clinical staff during the pandemic.
“We have since asked NHS dentists to return to delivering 100% of their contracted business, which many practices are already achieving.
“We are working closely with the NHS to reform the dental system and are negotiating contract improvements to increase patient access and ensure working in the NHS remains attractive to dentists.”
The NHS East of England has reiterated its commitment to improving access to services across the country.
A spokesperson for the organization said it is “committed to ensuring that everyone can access high quality dental care“, adding: “Urgent and emergency dental care is available for those who need it. need, and people should continue to use the NHS 111 service for advice on where to go.