Town's dental 'crisis' revealed

GETTING NHS dental treatment in Ipswich is set to become even harder for the 23,000 people in the town without a dentist, it has been has claimed.A survey carried out by Liberal Democrat county councillors in Suffolk has found that only one in 20 Ipswich dentists is still accepting new NHS patients - 10 months after new contracts were introduced last year to improve access.

GETTING NHS dental treatment in Ipswich is set to become even harder for the 23,000 people in the town without a dentist, it has been has claimed.

A survey carried out by Liberal Democrat county councillors in Suffolk has found that only one in 20 Ipswich dentists is still accepting new NHS patients - 10 months after new contracts were introduced last year to improve access.

But a spokesman for Suffolk PCT, which is responsible for providing NHS dental services in the town, insisted the changes were working and treatment was now easier to find.

The claimed most dentists believe it had had the opposite effect and viewed the move as a cost-cutting exercise.


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Suffolk county councillor Andrew Cann , who carried out the research with a colleague, said the latest findings had confirmed his “worst fears”.

He claimed: “The new contract, which the Government rushed through last April, is having a devastating impact on NHS dental care in Ipswich and, I suspect, Suffolk as a whole.

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“Speaking to dentists, we have found that most of them still want to treat NHS patients but this contract makes it financially difficult for them to do so.

“I cannot help but agree with those who have suggested that the new NHS contracts have little to do with the healthcare of the public and everything to do with saving money.”

Not one of the local dentists who responded to the survey felt they had been adequately consulted on the new contract and all, when questioned, felt it was “harmful” to NHS patient care in Ipswich

A total of 65 dentists were questioned in the survey, with 18 responses received on behalf of 39 dentists.

The PCT spokesman said that before the contract was introduced in April, very few dental practices in the county were accepting new non-private patients. He said only one dental practice in Ipswich had not taken up the agreement and there were still five in the town open to additional NHS patients.

Caroline Thornberry, the PCT's head of contractor services, said the changes had also increased emergency provision for patients in the town requiring treatment during the working day.

She said: “We will continue to discuss the new dental contract with dentists to ensure we are doing all we can to provide the best possible service.

“It is now much easier for patients to access treatment than before the new contract was in place. It has significantly improved.”

elliot.furniss@eadt.co.uk

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