Pledge to improve access to dentists

ONLY 18 NHS dentist practices in Suffolk are accepting new patients it can be revealed today.

ONLY 18 NHS dentist practices in Suffolk are accepting new patients it can be revealed today.

Just 22 per cent of the 83 surgeries in the county are opening their doors to patients who aren't already on their books, leaving some facing long journeys to find a practice.

The news come after it emerged that no practices in Felixstowe were taking new NHS clients and one had a waiting list of 900 people.

To tackle the problem Suffolk Primary Care Trust (PCT) has pledged to invest an extra £1.3million in improving access and allowing more people to get their teeth checked on the NHS.

Richard Ward, consultant in dental public health at the PCT, said: “At the moment some people in some places are having to wait too long to see a dentist. If everything was fine we wouldn't be investing.

“You are never going to get every practice in Ipswich accepting new patients. It's not like a doctor's surgery where you have a right to be on a doctor's list.

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“But hopefully the investment will result in more access and more appointments being available in Suffolk.”

The extra money from the Department of Health will be spent on making sure people in Suffolk have access to a dentist within 12 miles of their home, down from a current target of 15 miles. In urban areas the standard remains at five miles.

The extra investment will see a new practice created in Hadleigh and expansion in Stowmarket too.

Mr Ward added: “The important test is not how many are accepting new patients but that within the mileage standards (of 12 or five miles) there is a practice accepting patients.

“The public will see the benefits of these new standards and of the extra investment.”

Have you struggled to get an appointment with a dentist? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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