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Toothless in Suffolk calls for long-term plan to tackle county's dental crisis following NHS cash injection



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A campaign group has called for a long-term plan to tackle Suffolk's dental crisis as £5million is pledged towards treatment for people in the East of England.

The NHS has today offered £50million to secure up to 350,000 additional dental appointments for those suffering from oral pain, disease, and infection across England with over £5.7million to be made available across the East of England.

NHS teams will use the funds to secure dentists already operating in the region who can offer patients appointments.

A campaign group has called for a long-term plan to tackle Suffolk's dental crisis after £5million was pledged towards treating people in the region.
A campaign group has called for a long-term plan to tackle Suffolk's dental crisis after £5million was pledged towards treating people in the region.

Children and people with learning disabilities, autism, or severe mental health problems will be prioritised as part of a dentistry treatment blitz over the coming months, with the one off funding available until the end of the financial year.

The chief dental officer for England has hailed the money an 'unprecedented action to boost NHS dental services'.

But Steve Marsling, joint coordinator of the Toothless in Suffolk campaign, which has been calling for improved dental provision in the county, said a longer-term plan was needed from the Government.

Steve Marsling, joint coordinator for Toothless in Suffolk. Picture: Mark Westley.
Steve Marsling, joint coordinator for Toothless in Suffolk. Picture: Mark Westley.

It comes as last week, figures from the BBC's Shared Data Unit revealed that the area covered by the West Suffolk CCG experienced a 21 per cent decrease in NHS dentists between 2020 and 2021, with 34 dentists making the move away from the public sector across the year.

"You cannot create a proper dental service by creating a time limited cash payment," Mr Marsling said.

"It won't make up for over ten years of neglect.

"Are those areas like Leiston going to have a new dentist under this scheme?

"Today, Toothless in Suffolk have written to David Barter, Head of NHS Commissioners, to demand answers on the promises he made with regard to new dental services in Suffolk and Norfolk.

"An answer was promised by January. We have heard nothing."

Mr Marsling's comments were echoed by the British Dental Association (BDA), a trade union for dentists in the UK.

Shawn Charlwood, chair of the British Dental Association's General Dental Practice Committee, said: "Any additional funding is needed recognition of the huge backlogs facing NHS dentistry.

"After a decade of cuts a cash-starved service risks being offered money that can’t be spent.

"Hard-pressed practices are working against the clock, and many will struggle to find capacity ahead of April for this investment to make a difference.

“Until today not a penny of the Government’s multi-billion-pound catch-up programme had reached dentistry.

"This is progress, but must be just the start if we are to rebuild a service millions depend on."

Sara Hurley, chief dental officer for England, said: “Dental services are a vital part of the NHS providing oral health care to all age groups, and that’s why we have taken this unprecedented action to boost NHS dental services.

“More than 600 urgent dental health hubs were rapidly ramped up during the pandemic to deliver urgent care for patients, and the NHS is now getting key services like dentistry back to pre-pandemic levels – injecting an extra £50 million into routine services will help provide check-ups and treatment for hundreds and thousands of people.”