Bury St Edmunds dentist hits out at 'toxic cocktail of targets' as Sycamore House announces cuts to NHS services
A Bury St Edmunds dental practice has slashed its NHS services after the contract pushed it to the ‘edge of viability’.
Patients at Sycamore House have been told that after more than 20 years of providing NHS dentistry in the town, it has decided to ‘significantly reduce’ its NHS contract.
Dr Hernan Morillo, dental surgeon and partner at Sycamore, said he had worked within the NHS in Bury St Edmunds since 1997 and the current contract and funding arrangements had become a ‘toxic cocktail of targets, claw-backs and penalties’.
The system, he said, was ‘failing patients and dental teams leading to access problems around the country’.
“There were problems when it was introduced in 2006 and these have only got steadily worse since,” said Dr Morillo.
“The current situation for our practice is that we can no longer deliver the care that we think our patients should be getting from us within the NHS.
"The NHS dental contract has pushed us to the edge of viability as a practice.”
In a letter to patients, the practice, off Northgate Street, said it would continue to provide NHS treatment and booked appointments for a routine check-up until September 30.
After this date, the practice has a training contract with the NHS for a foundation dentist and patients or anyone else who want to be seen in the NHS can book an appointment with them.
However, they will only be registered with the practice for the duration of the NHS course of treatment.
It is the government’s job to provide sustainable funding for dental healthcare - Dr Hernan Morillo
The practice will continue to see children, aged up to 18, within the NHS and Dr Morillo said, as an interim measure, they will use part of their funding to do so.
To be registered with Sycamore and to be able to book preventive care and urgent appointments, patients would need to attend privately or join one of its payment plans.
Dr Morillo said: “We recognise that everyone deserves access to high quality routine and emergency care.
“It is the government’s job to provide sustainable funding for dental healthcare.
"Our top priority is to do good work and look after our patients in a clean and safe environment.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: "The pandemic has been a challenging time for dentists who continue to work tirelessly to provide high-quality dental care.
"We have supported dentists throughout including by paying contracts for dental services in full, despite social distancing and additional infection control measures to keep patients and staff safe, which has meant dentists have seen fewer patients.”
Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill’s office was approached for comment.