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Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill invites constituents to online dentistry summit to discuss 'unacceptable' crisis

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Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill has invited constituents to an online summit to discuss the town's dentistry crisis.

In an open letter to constituents, Mrs Churchill said she wanted to hear the views of people who are unable to access dental services in the Bury St Edmunds constituency, which includes Stowmarket.

Independent watchdog Healthwatch Suffolk has described the NHS dental system as ‘unquestionably broken and completely unsatisfactory’ and the number of surgeries offering NHS dentistry in Bury has been shrinking for years.

Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography
Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography

Northgate Business Park’s Sycamore House was the latest to announce in May that it would slash its NHS services after the contract pushed it to the ‘edge of viability’.

Last month it emerged NHS England plans for seven new dental services across Suffolk and Norfolk failed to include any in west or mid Suffolk.

This week, Danielle Watts, 42, of Bury St Edmunds, said she had removed 11 of her own teeth after she was unable to see a dentist for six years when her surgery closed.

Danielle Watts, of Bury St Edmunds, who pulled out 11 of her own teeth
Danielle Watts, of Bury St Edmunds, who pulled out 11 of her own teeth

In the letter, Mrs Churchill said: "I agree with constituents that NHS dentistry provision in Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket has been lacking for some time.

"NHS England's role is to commission to need, but across Suffolk and specifically in Bury St Edmunds we have challenges, in part because dentists are private contractors and do not have to take on NHS work should they not wish to."

Until recently, the MP was health minister with responsibility for dentistry before being moved to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

Mrs Churchill said she had raised concerns at the 'highest level' about dental provision in Bury and would continue to demand action over the 'unacceptable situation'.

"We were recently advised that a practice in Ely was able to treat an NHS patient from Bury, but this is not a suitable solution for all," she said.

"The NHSEI (NHS England and NHS Improvement) team are keen to improve dental services in Suffolk and are aware of the specific difficulties that a rural area presents."

She noted that recruitment and retention of dentists 'remains a limiting factor' in large parts of East Anglia as many young dentists 'seek the bright lights of larger cities and opportunities therein'.

The online dentistry summit is on Tuesday, October 12 from 9.30am to 10.15am.

Email jo.churchill.mp@parliament.uk to register for the event.

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