1,500 in Colchester without NHS dentist

AS many as 1,500 patients in the Colchester area have been left without access to an NHS dentist and have little prospect of finding one locally in the immediate future, a health trust has admitted.

By Roddy Ashworth

AS many as 1,500 patients in the Colchester area have been left without access to an NHS dentist and have little prospect of finding one locally in the immediate future, a health trust has admitted.

And although it is hoped people now without routine NHS cover might ultimately be absorbed by existing practices, there is no guarantee when of if this would happen.

A total of 25 of the controversial new NHS dental contracts have gone unsigned across Essex, figures showed yesterday.


You may also want to watch:


A spokesman for Colchester Primary Care Trust (PCT) said 39 of the 41 eligible dental practices or practitioners in its area had agreed to the terms of the new contracts, which came into force on April 1.

But he confirmed that few, if any, of those who had signed the deal were permitting new NHS patients to join their practices - leaving people now without an NHS dentist little choice but to go private or without routine treatment.

Most Read

“A maximum of 1,500 people who were able to access NHS treatment before April 1 cannot do so any longer,” the spokesman said.

“At the moment they would have problems getting registered elsewhere. It would be very difficult if not impossible to register as an NHS patient at the moment.”

He added that around half of those left unregistered were expected to stay with their existing practice but go private, but that the rest would be left with no NHS dentist.

The spokesman said it was anticipated dentists would reopen their doors to new NHS patients after they had seen how the new system “bedded in”, which is hoped to be within two or three months.

“Anybody who needs emergency dental treatment will receive it as usual under the new system,” he said.

“It is routine work such as check-ups that will be unavailable to them.”

The spokesman stressed that similar problems were being encountered up and down the country and Colchester PCTs situation was typical. Under the new system, the region has service provision of 96.7%.

In Tendring, 3,000 patients have been left without an NHS dentist after four out of 17 practices failed to sign the new contract.

But a spokesman for Tendring PCT said that all of those who did not go private with their existing dentist would be allocated an NHS dentist by the end of the month.

Yesterday the Government insisted that predictions of a mass exodus of dentists from the NHS had proved unfounded as the great majority had agreed new funding arrangements.

It published figures showing that only 4% of NHS dentists nationally had not signed the new contract.

Health minister Rosie Winterton said: “Around nine out of ten dentists have signed up to the new contracts, and these dentists provide around 96 per cent of current NHS dental services.

“PCTs are already making progress in replacing the small proportion of services where dentists have not taken up the new contract - something they did not have the power to do under the old system.”

Under the new contract, instead of being paid for each NHS treatment they carry out, dentists are given a guaranteed income estimated to be about £80,000 a year for three years.

Dental charges have also been simplified into three pay bands to replace the old system, which saw around 400 separate payments.

Yesterday's figures mean that nationally up to one million people lost their dentist under the shake-up.

roddy.ashworth@eadt.co.uk

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus