Patients fear NHS dentist shortage

By James MortlockPATIENTS wanting dental care on the NHS will have more trouble finding a dentist after another practice announced it will be almost exclusively private.

By James Mortlock

PATIENTS wanting dental care on the NHS will have more trouble finding a dentist after another practice announced it will be almost exclusively private.

Bosses at the Guildhall Dental Practice in Bury St Edmunds blamed financial pressures and treatment constraints imposed by the NHS on their decision to abandon subsidised treatment from November.

But one concerned patient said she was now finding it almost impossible to find an NHS dentist in the town.

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The latest problems surrounding dentistry in Suffolk come a year after health bosses warned the number of dentists in East Anglia taking on NHS patients was declining, leaving people to travel miles for treatment in other towns.

The situation at the Guildhall practice follows a decision by Dr Paul Carr, the last dentist at the surgery still providing NHS care, to provide NHS treatment only for children and adults who were exempt from charges.

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In a letter to patients, he said: “The aim of the practice is to provide you with a high-quality, caring service.

“Unfortunately, with increasing financial pressures and treatment constraints being imposed on NHS dentistry by Government policy, I am finding it impossible to provide you with this high-quality service.

“More and more treatments are being withdrawn from the NHS and new forms of treatment are not being implemented. This restricts the service I am able to offer you.”

Dr Roger Peck, senior partner at the practice, said the problems experienced by the surgery were an issue for many dentists.

He stressed: “We're just following what other practices in Bury have done. It seems that 99% of them are now private practices and for many that has been the case for quite a while.”

Dr Peck said the practice had not been taking new NHS patients - other than children or adults exempt from charges - for seven years.

One NHS patient from the practice, who asked not to be named, said she was struggling to find a surgery prepared to take her on.

However, a spokesman for the Suffolk West Primary Care Trust said there were still four dental practices in the town currently taking on NHS patients.

Last year, people living in Stowmarket and Needham Market faced having to travel to either Ipswich or Bury St Edmunds after the practice run by Dr David Cornish closed when he retired.

Dr Cornish was unable to find anyone to take it over and patients then found they were unable to register on the NHS locally.

Figures unveiled last year also revealed only 55% of patients in Suffolk were registered with an NHS dentist.

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