Further blow for dental care as NHS contract is 'revoked'
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Dental provision in Suffolk has suffered another blow after an NHS contract with a town centre practice was revoked.
In an initial letter seen by the EADT, The Thatch Dental Practice, in King Street, Mildenhall informed patients that it no longer held a temporary NHS contract awarded due to the closure of other practices in the area and would no longer be able to provide them with a service.
However, in a second letter, also seen by the EADT, practice manager Sammi Coidan acknowledged the distress caused to patients and said that following ‘close correspondence’ with the business owners, the practice could continue to offer NHS dental care to children and patients who are exempt from NHS dental fees.
She said: “The news came as quite a shock last week and has caused great distress for our patients as well as our team.
"I have discussed this with the business owners in regards to the outcome of the NHS contract being revoked and that we need to do our best to continue as much as possible for as many as possible."
However, on social media site Facebook, patient Ian Connor said that patients could still be affected if they were claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), a benefit provided to people who are unable to work.
He said claimants receiving income-based ESA and children can continue to have treatment with the practice, but those receiving contributions-based ESA, for people who have made National Insurance contributions, have lost the service.
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The news has attracted a lot of interest on Facebook, with Mr Connor’s comment receiving 99 replies.
Poster Marie Evans said: “Apparently no NHS dentist accepting patients for 50 miles. Looks like we're going back to the dark ages black or no teeth unless you can afford it.”
Campaigners have been fighting for new dental practices in Suffolk, with figures from the Department of Health revealing that at least 27% of dentists have left the service in the county since 2020.
Mark Jones, co-founder of campaign group Toothless in Suffolk, said: “The practice has been put in this position because the government’s contract system for NHS dentists has effectively eroded the last remainders of goodwill NHS dental practitioners once had.
“Providing NHS treatments has increasingly become an unviable financial option. We’re seeing more and more practices are either paring back NHS provision or going completely ‘Private’.
“The consequences for the public, for communities like Mildenhall and elsewhere across the country, are huge with health inequalities widening further by the day.
“We have repeatedly called on the government to properly fund this most essential of NHS services and implement a contract system that is fit for purpose, one that ensures patient needs are put first and not targets.”
The Thatch Dental Practice refused to comment.