Health Secretary urged to act as thousands in Norfolk left without a dentist
PUBLISHED: 17:01 27 November 2018 | UPDATED: 17:01 27 November 2018
The British Dental Association has called on Health Secretary Matt Hancock to tackle a crisis in access to dental services that is forcing new patients in Norfolk to travel over 60 miles.
The call comes ahead of the closure of two practices in Snettisham and East Harling this week that will leave over 7,000 patients struggling to find NHS dentists taking on new patients.
Coastal Dental Practice in Snettisham, run by provider Mydentist, will close on November 30 leaving patients searching for an alternative practice.
Mydentist in East Harling is also closing this Friday but, according to the NHS service search, no NHS dentists in the surrounding towns of Thetford, Attleborough or Diss are accepting new patients without a referral from a practitioner.
The experience of Juliane Gregg, from nearby Diss, is typical of people already struggling to find a dentist. “I moved to the area at the end of last year and needed to register. The nearest dentist that was taking on NHS patients was in Stowmarket. It’s a good job I drive. I feel for anyone that doesn’t,” she said.
The BDA has warned that the crisis in access has become an everyday reality in many areas with patients in Kings Lynn already having to travel over 60 miles to Boston in Lincolnshire to see a dentist.
BDA analysis of NHS Choices data reveals that even in Matt Hancock’s own West Suffolk constituency, communities like Brandon and Haverhill have no practices able to take on new adult NHS patients.
Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, the BDA chair of general dental practice, said: “It’s a scandal that patients in Kings Lynn are now facing over 60 mile journeys to access NHS care.
“Ministers have chosen to fund care for little over half the population, while dentists work to a contract that puts government targets ahead of patient care. The result is practices are struggling to fill vacancies, and residents are waiting longer or travelling further for an appointment.
“If Matt Hancock is serious about putting prevention at the heart of NHS strategy he needs to act on a crisis brewing in his own backyard, and ensure families who want NHS dentistry can access it.”
A spokesman for Mydentist said: “In common with a number of other dental practices in Norfolk, difficulties in recruiting dentists and increased running costs have forced us to make the difficult decision to close the practices on November 30.
“We’d like to apologise for any inconvenience this may cause and have written to all of our patients to inform them of the changes and offer them advice on finding alternative dental care.”