No dentists currently accepting new NHS patients in Bury St Edmunds
There are now no dentists in Bury St Edmunds accepting new NHS patients, forcing anyone needing treatment to 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.
Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, which works to improve NHS and social care services, said: “NHS dental contracts are handled nationally, unlike other health services such as hospital and GP practices which are commissioned locally.
“We have received calls from people in the area who have been unable to register and when we have spoken to NHS England about the situation its response has been that there is NHS care currently available, albeit in neighbouring towns. This is clearly not an ideal solution as not everyone can easily access transport. If there is a solution to addressing the shortage of NHS places at dental surgeries, it only lies at a national, NHS England, rather than a local clinical commissioning group level.”
Bury MP Jo Churchill said she had recently raised concerns about the issue.
She said: “I have urgently raised this with Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, to understand when residents can expect full NHS dental services to return and how we can ensure continuity of service.”
Healthwatch Suffolk said the East Anglian Local Dental Network had 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.
In February, mydentist in King’s Road closed, leaving its patients searching for treatment elsewhere. At that time, one other surgery in the town was still accepting new NHS patients, however it has since closed its list.
Simon Evans, locality director for NHS England, Midlands and East (East), said: “This is a great concern to us and we are working with practices to improve the situation.”
He said patients could find practices further afield still accepting patients through NHS Choices at www.nhs.uk or by calling 111.
Anyone needing urgent dental care should also call 111.
For more on this story, see this week’s Bury Free Press newspaper.