900 on waiting list for one dentist

THOUSANDS of people across Suffolk today cannot see an NHS dentist - and one Suffolk surgery alone has a waiting list of 900 people.

Richard Cornwell

THOUSANDS of people across Suffolk today cannot see an NHS dentist - and one Suffolk surgery alone has a waiting list of 900 people.

Dentists have been deeply unhappy at changes to the NHS contract and many have opted out, with more practices concentrating on private patients.

An Evening Star snap survey of dentists in Felixstowe showed how towns are struggling to cope - with none of the resort's dental surgeries taking on new NHS patients.

At Crescent Dental Care in Cobbold Road there the waiting list has grown to include 900 people.

“We are very busy at the moment but we do get a few appointments which become available and then we ring people up. It is a waiting game and that's all we can say to people,” said a spokeswoman.

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The Montague Road dental surgery was hoping to take on new NHS patients in October, the Victoria Street practice is not taking any new patients at the moment, and Walton House, High Road, is now private for adults and NHS for children only.

Meanwhile the only dental surgery in Martlesham revealed it is not taking on NHS patients, only private clients, meaning people from Felixstowe have to travel as far as Ipswich to be seen.

In Ipswich there is also an apparent shortage of NHS dentists available. Out of ten surgeries contacted, six were in a position to take on new clients although the majority of these were doing so on a private basis.

Dentists say the new contracts have forced them to go private with no financial incentive to give appropriate treatment on the NHS.

“When you add in the cost of the admin and the way the treatment is structured, it is making sense to go private and deal with the patients you choose,” said one private dentist.

MPs have criticised the contracts - which pay dentists an annual income for an agreed amount of work rather than a fee for each type of treatment - for failing to improve services for patients.

- Have you been unable to find a NHS dentist? How long have you been on a waiting list? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

EVIDENCE presented to the Commons Health Select Committee found tooth extractions had risen since the new contract was introduced, while more complex work like crowns, bridges and dentures has fallen by 57per cent.

More than 800,000 fewer people saw a dentist in the two years to December 2007 than in the two years to April 2006.

Suffolk Primary Care Trust says it is working hard to increase NHS provision and last week a new surgery was opened in Brandon as part of a partnership deal, providing care for 800 patients.

Richard Ward, consultant in dental public health at the PCT, said: “We have been working hard on plans to improve access to dentists. Part of this included increasing our 2008/09 budget by £1.3million.”

Further possibilities of partnership working were being explored. It is hoped to do similar projects in Bury St Edmunds and the coastal areas.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said more than £200m had been invested in NHS dentistry this year.

“Patients are starting to see the benefits with new NHS practices opening all over the country, and we are working with the NHS to ensure that the quality of dental commissioning by PCTs improves,” she said.