Campaigners stage protest against town's lack of NHS dentists

Mark Jones and Steve Marsling are collecting signatures to bring NHS dental services to Leiston

Mark Jones and Steve Marsling are collecting signatures to bring NHS dental services to Leiston - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

Hundreds of people staged a protest and signed a petition to bring NHS dental services back to Leiston.

The east Suffolk town has been without any form of NHS dental provision since the town's final practice closed earlier this year. 

In the space of 18 months, the town lost both of its dentists - leaving Leiston's 5,000-plus residents struggling to look for a new practice

People have been told they face trips as far south as Colchester and Chelmsford to get NHS dental provision, as many local surgeries are either not taking on new patients or have gone fully private. 

Collecting signatures at a dental protest in Leiston

Left to right, Pete Cargill, Dina Grogan, Jaspir Cargill, Steve Marsling and Mark Jones collecting signatures at a dental protest in Leiston - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

Now, one group of residents has decided to hit back at the lack of dentists with a new petition to bring services back.  

Steve Marsling has set up the petition, having recently lost his own dentist.

"We want an NHS dentist back in the Leiston area," said Mr Marsling. 

"We are not going to take no for an answer.

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"It's really important that we get this across. It's not just a Leiston thing, it's a whole of Suffolk thing. 

"The service that was set up in 1948 that was free at the point of use is being eroded so that dental services are being taken out of the NHS. 

"Nobody can find an NHS dentist anymore."

Mr Marsling added: "The response from the Leiston people has been absolutely fantastic. In two hours, we got over 230 signatures.

"People were queueing to not only tell us their stories but to sign the petition, which was quite something in a tiny town like that.

"One person had an abscess and another told us they had found a dentist in Chelmsford. That's 80 miles away. 

"People's stories are heartbreaking because they are in a lot of pain."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said previously: “We are committed to supporting the dental sector throughout this unprecedented pandemic so everyone across the country can access affordable, high-quality dental care.

“We continue to support the most vulnerable by providing exemptions from dental charges for certain groups."

Mr Marsling will be collecting signatures again next weekend outside the Co-op between 10am and noon.