Contracts see dentists leave NHS

SIX dental practices in Suffolk have completely withdrawn from the NHS since the introduction of a controversial new contract for dentists, The Evening Star can reveal today.

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SIX dental practices in Suffolk have completely withdrawn from the NHS since the introduction of a controversial new contract for dentists, The Evening Star can reveal today.

Sixteen other practices have reduced the number of NHS patients they treat in the wake of the contract, which came into force in April.

Two practices in east Suffolk withdrew from the NHS, 13 Northgate Street, Ipswich, and 13 Penzance Road, Kesgrave. The other four practices were in the west of the county and included two in Lavenham.

However health bosses in Suffolk say the situation has levelled-off and access to NHS dentistry is not as sparse as it was feared it would be.

Richard Ward, consultant in dental public health for Suffolk, said: “There has been an increasing drift towards private practice for some years which peaked when the new contract was introduced, but I think it has reached a sort of plateau now.”

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The contract, which makes a number of changes to the way dentists are paid, was met with widespread concern when it was announced and saw dentists from across the country choosing to leave the NHS.

Speaking at a meeting of Suffolk's health scrutiny committee, Mr Ward said that before the introduction of the new contract there were a total of 105 NHS dental practices in Suffolk and 286 dentists. Today there are 99 NHS practices and 270 dentists.

A further fourteen practices have reduced their NHS work to children and non-fee paying adults (i.e. those on benefits), while two more have some dentists who are restricting their NHS work.

He stressed that there have been a lot of positive developments in dentistry in Suffolk in the last three months, including a successful bid for funding for a new dentist in Ipswich and the recruitment of a number of Polish dentists.

There are also plans to build a new dental practice in Stowmarket and access to emergency dentists in east Suffolk has doubled.

Mr Ward said: “The situation is not as bad as was first feared but we must not make out that it is 100pc rosy. The challenge for us is to make sure patients have access to a dentist close to where they live and don't have to travel a long way.”

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