Petition launched as part of Toothless in Suffolk campaign calls for full restoration of NHS dentistry services across Suffolk
A petition has been launched calling for the full restoration of NHS dentistry services in Suffolk and has so far received more than 1,200 signatures.
Steve Marsling, a Communist Party member who recently ran in a by-election in the East Suffolk ward of Aldeburgh and Leiston, set up the petition in April after losing his NHS dentist in Leiston, leaving the town and surrounding area with no dental provision.
Darren Turner, a fellow Communist Party member and Bury Town Councillor, is heading up the petition in Bury.
Cllr Turner, who recently had to travel to Cambridge to receive dental care, said: “I wanted to get involved because it’s really impossible to get an NHS dentist in Suffolk, and because of my own personal experience.
“I had to take out a loan to pay for dental treatment.
“I am a working class man, I have got a family and I struggle to put a roof over my family’s head and then when something like that falls on your lap and you are forced to pay out a huge amount for dental treatment it does become an issue.”
Mr Turner said launching the petition was about making people aware of the lack of dental provision in the county.
“For me it’s an issue across the town and across the county,” he said.
“A lot of people don’t just have money lying around."
He added having to pay for dental care could have a ‘devastating’ effect on people’s lives.
A spokesperson for the NHS in the East of England said: “We are committed to ensuring everyone can access high quality dental care, and we are working closely with dental providers in Suffolk to improve access to services.
“Urgent and emergency dental care is available for those who need it, and people should use the NHS 111 service for advice on where to go.”
They added due to Covid-19 restrictions and the challenges the pandemic presents for dental care, the day-to-day capacity of dental practices to see patients had been significantly reduced, and dentists were currently prioritising those patients with the most urgent needs and those with outstanding treatments.
Dental practices constantly review their capacity to see new patients so it was worth regularly checking back with practices in the area, they said.
They added: "NHS England and NHS Improvement is working with dentists across the East of England to ensure routine dental services can be restored safely.
"In the longer term we are working with practices to explore ways to improve access to dental services, reduce inequalities and improve oral health and prevention.
"Routine dental services were paused last year due to Covid-19 but NHS England and NHS Improvement issued national guidance stating that routine services should be restored based on clinical need, taking into account the urgency of need, particular un-met needs of vulnerable groups and available capacity to undertake activity.
"Anyone can access urgent dental services from any dental practice accepting new NHS patients; you do not need to register with a particular practice in the same way as you would with a GP."
To sign the petition, go to: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/bring-our-nhs-dentist-back