Lack of dentists leads to practice closure
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A lack of dentists forced the closure of Leiston's final dental practice - leaving thousands of patients looking elsewhere for treatment.
The mydentist practice will close at the end of April, 12 months since the town's only other dentist, Bupa, closed its doors for good.
The loss of both practices in the space of a year leaves the town's 5,000 residents without a dentist and having to look elsewhere for treatment.
A spokesperson for mydentist said: “In common with a number of dental practices across the country, we have faced difficulties recruiting enough dentists.
"This, alongside increased running costs, has forced us to make the difficult decision to close our practice on High Street in Leiston from April 30.
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“Our teams are working hard to complete open courses of treatment while adhering to all Covid-19 safety guidance.
"Patients are being informed of the closure, as well as where they can continue their dental treatment after April 30.”
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The reasons behind the practice's closure mirror those behind the closing of the Bupa dentists in the town last year.
Bupa said it too had struggled to recruit dentists in the area and so had little choice but to close the Crown Street practice.
Shawn Charlwood, chairman of the British Dental Association’s General Dental Practice Committee, said: “There was an access crisis to NHS dentistry long before the pandemic but Covid has escalated this.
“NHS dentistry is only funded to treat half the population, and over time the government has relied on revenue from patient charges rather than investing in dentistry.
“There is also a much-critisised target-driven dental contract that has been in place since 2006 and is driving dentists away from providing NHS services in their droves.
“The contract emphasises activity over prevention, and quantity – a dentist will be paid the same for doing one filling on a patient as for 10. How can that be fair?
“If dental practice owners fail to deliver on their contracted number of units of dental activity – albeit there was some relaxation of this over the pandemic till January of this year, which dentists appreciated – they face harsh financial penalties, which can push some dental practices over the edge.
"The pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the way dentistry is delivered to patients: the social distancing, and infection control protocols that are currently in place to tackle the threat of Covid, has greatly reduced dentists’ capacity to see patients.
“On top of all this, the re-imposition of targets on dental practices since January 1 is devastating NHS dental services.
"Under the plans, it says that dental practices falling below 45% of their pre-pandemic activity between January 1 and the end of this month could face steep financial penalties by having to hand back a proportion of their NHS funding.
“Sadly, ministers have chosen to focus on volume over need.”