NHS dental blitz to help those in urgent need

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A blitz on treatment could help NHS patients - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

More NHS dental appointments will be available in Suffolk from February 1 as part of a blitz to help those in urgent need of treatment, commissioners have confirmed.

However, patients have been warned it is only the larger practices that are likely to be offering the evening and weekend appointments.

Earlier this week NHS England announced a £50million pot to deliver another 350,000 NHS dental appointments nationwide in February and March to tackle the access to treatment crisis.

Suffolk’s health scrutiny committee on Wednesday morning heard that NHS England commissioners met with practice leaders on Tuesday night, and the funding arrangements would be in place by February 1.

The scheme will entail additional appointments in the evenings and on weekends over those eight weeks to the end of March.

David Barter, head of commissioning for NHS England, said the meeting held on Tuesday night with local dental committees called for expressions of interest.

“They are very supportive of this initiative,” he said.

David Barter, head of commissioning at NHS England

David Barter, head of commissioning at NHS England. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL - Credit: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

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“It really is determined by practices’ availability to mobilise their staff, recognising that that will be for out of hour periods, so evening and weekend periods.

“We are currently awaiting an expression of interest back from each one of the providers within the region to let us know what proportion of activity they can provide as part of this initiative.

“The idea then is that we then amend the contract payment mechanism so that any practice that wants to do this activity can do so from the 1st of February onwards.

“There is the eight critical weeks between the beginning of February and end of March where practices will be able to deliver this activity, and we hope that many practices will decide to dig deeper with their clinical teams and be able to offer that activity.”

But health bosses said that while the funding level for practices makes it an attractive proposition, it may only be larger surgeries with more staff that have the flexibility to offer those bookings.

Gregory Brown, senior performance improvement manager at Suffolk and north east Essex clinical commissioning groups, said: “It does rely on dental practitioners being willing to take on that overtime.

“I do think some of the bigger practices will find it easier to mobilise. Some of the smaller practices that perhaps only have one or two dentists may struggle.”