Lack of staff sees half of dental surgeries closed to NHS patients
- Credit: Mercy Ships
Almost half of Norfolk's dental surgeries are closed to NHS patients as a lack of dentists in the county impacts on care.
Papers released ahead of Norfolk County Council's Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) on Thursday revealed three surgeries had closed since November and uncertainty over Brexit was 'unlikely to help'.
Nick Stolls (right), secretary of the Local Dental Committee (LDC), said: 'Recruitment of dentists has become even more difficult in many rural parts of the county and Norfolk has suffered in much the same way as many other regions.'
He said that while in general practice GPs recruited in north-west Norfolk were being offered golden hellos, there was no similar scheme in dentistry.
Snettisham and East Harling practices, which were run by MyDentist, closed in November last year. Another dentist – Dr Suresh Patel, of Unthank Road – closed last month.
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At the time retiree Margaret Scott, of White Hart Street, East Harling, said: 'None of the others are taking NHS patients as far as I'm aware.'
She added: 'They closed because they can't get the dentists, so you can't blame them. It's inconvenient, added to which I don't have a car. It's a 20-mile drive.'
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Data shows that of the 98 dentist surgeries in Norfolk, 50 are accepting NHS patients.
There are now more nearly 200 more patients per dentist in north Norfolk and south Norfolk than in 2016/17. In Norwich the number of patients per dentist had risen by 39. But in Great Yarmouth and Waveney, and in west Norfolk, the number of patients per dentist had decreased.
The number of people going to A&E for dental problems had risen from 14 in 2016/17 to 25 in 2018/19.
Dr Stolls said Brexit was 'unlikely to improve' the situation, and said: 'The challenges facing NHS dental practices have been significant but there has been a worrying trend across the country whereby practices are simply closing and handing back their NHS contract to the commissioners.
'We have seen two examples of this in Norfolk [...] both closed their doors, not just to NHS patients but to all patients – they ceased to be a dental practice.'