Only 12 NHS dentists accept new patients

Monday, 20 August, 2007

ONLY one in eight dental practices in Suffolk is accepting new NHS patients - despite claims access to services was greater than ever before, a new survey has found.

Huge swathes of the county have no dentists taking on new adult patients and there are warnings more practices will go private because of a perceived lack of funding.

There are currently just 12 practices in Suffolk whose books are still open to NHS patients, with eight of those either in Ipswich or Haverhill. There are none in towns such as Bury St Edmunds, Felixstowe and Lowestoft.

It comes after the Government introduced new NHS contracts in April last year, which it said had given dentists 'the flexibility to develop services that fit local needs'.

But Bury St Edmunds Conservative David Ruffley said the new contract had had the opposite effect.

'The shiny new contract was flawed from the beginning,' he said.

'It comes as no surprise to me it's become a worse service than before.

'Dentists told me when this contract came out that this was not going to work. It is quite clear this was a bungled contract design from faceless bureaucrats in London.'

Andrew Cann, deputy leader of Suffolk County Council's Liberal Democrats, said: 'People in many parts of Suffolk still cannot find an NHS dentist and there are serious concerns the new system doesn't provide enough money for dentists to treat NHS patients towards the end of the financial year: something that will only get worse after 2009 when the dental budget will no longer be ring-fenced.'

A spokesman for the PCT said: 'Following the introduction of the new dental service contract the PCT has improved the level of access to dentistry across the county.

'The PCT is committed to improve access focusing on areas of most need as a first priority.'