Dental campaigners to protest 'lack of action' to provide services

Steve Marsling, co-coordinator of Toothless in Suffolk, which is organising a protest

Steve Marsling, co-coordinator of Toothless in Suffolk, which is organising a protest about a 'lack of action' over dental care - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

Campaigners fighting for new dental practices will be protesting about a lack of action by NHS commissioners to provide new services. 

Representatives from Toothless in Suffolk will be gathering outside the old premises of MyDentist in Leiston High Street to mark one year since the town last had an NHS practice. 

The action group is calling on residents to join in the protest on Saturday, April 29 at 10.30am. 

Steve Marsling, co-cordinator of Toothless in Suffolk, said: “It’s nothing short of a disgrace. A national disgrace. 

“NHS commissioners are employed to ensure NHS treatments are provided where there’s a need and yet they are seemingly incapable of fulfilling their responsibilities.”

The Toothless in Suffolk group during a visit to Houses of Parliament in London

The Toothless in Suffolk group during a visit to Houses of Parliament in London - Credit: Toothless in Suffolk

 In February, NHS England and NHS Improvement announced plans for new practices in Norwich, King’s Lynn and Lowestoft, but not Leiston. 

In January, the Department of Health announced funding for 350,000 new NHS appointments nationwide, but Mr Marsling said this would be "unworkable" because the service needed to recruit extra staff and existing staff would not want to work the extra hours. 

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In the absence of a dentist, charity Dentaid visited the town in February and set up a mobile clinic at the town's Waterloo Centre. 

Eddie Crouch, chair of the British Dental Association, the trade union for dentists, said: “Leiston offers a taste of where NHS dentistry is heading unless the government steps up. 

“A whole community denied access to basic healthcare, with charities that normally operate in the developing world left to pick up the pieces. 

“We will only see progress if ministers turn the page on a decade of failed contracts and underfunding.” 

Data published in January revealed an exodus of dentists from the service - including at least 27% in Suffolk since 2020.  

Figures from the Department of Health showed the current joint third-worst affected area in England was the West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which saw a fall of 21% of dentists completing NHS work between 2020 and 2021.  

Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG saw a drop of 6% during the same period, while Norfolk and Waveney CCG, which includes the Waveney area of Suffolk, saw 7% fewer dentists.