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West Suffolk CCG area sees one of the biggest drops in NHS dentists in England over last year



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A Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) area saw the joint-third highest drop in NHS dentists across the whole of England over 12 months, new data reveals.

Figures compiled by the BBC's Shared Data Unit show that the area covered by the West Suffolk CCG experienced a 21 per cent decrease between 2020 and 2021, with 34 dentists making the move away from the public sector across the year.

Back in 2020, the CCG area had 164 NHS dentists but this number fell to 130 last year. The West Suffolk CCG area has seen a 10 per cent drop in NHS dentists over the last five years.

Thirty four NHS dentists left the West Suffolk CCG between 2020 and 2021 - a 21 per cent drop.
Thirty four NHS dentists left the West Suffolk CCG between 2020 and 2021 - a 21 per cent drop.


The Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG area saw a smaller drop of six per cent, but still lost 13 dentists over the same 12-month period, from 225 in 2020 to 212 last year.

Meanwhile, the Norfolk and Waveney CCG area lost 29 dentists, from 420 in 2020 to 391 in 2021, equating to a seven per cent decrease.

The data from NHS England shows the combined total of dentists working across CCG areas in the country fell by more than 2,400 - up to eight per cent of the workforce.

The Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG saw a six per cent drop in NHS dentists between 2020 and 2021, losing 13 over a 12 month period.
The Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG saw a six per cent drop in NHS dentists between 2020 and 2021, losing 13 over a 12 month period.

An NHS spokesperson said 'unprecedented action' had been taken to support NHS dentists throughout the pandemic, with additional funding provided to practices unable to deliver usual levels of activity.

Six hundred urgent dental centres have been set up across England to maintain patient services during the pandemic, they added.

“People should continue to come forward for the dental care they need, and the care and treatment of people who need it most should be prioritised," they said.

However, dental provision in Suffolk has come under fire in recent months.

The Toothless in Suffolk campaign, launched last year, has been calling for access to NHS dental provision for all against a backdrop of patients struggling to access treatment.

Toothless in Suffolk, a campaign set up to improve NHS dental provision in Suffolk, are holding a demonstration. Assembling at 11am on Angel Hill, will march off at 11.30am and will pass Jo Churchill’s office and double back to meet in the Abbey Gardens for speeches. Picture by Mark Westley. (54323085)
Toothless in Suffolk, a campaign set up to improve NHS dental provision in Suffolk, are holding a demonstration. Assembling at 11am on Angel Hill, will march off at 11.30am and will pass Jo Churchill’s office and double back to meet in the Abbey Gardens for speeches. Picture by Mark Westley. (54323085)

The campaign group has organised a march in Bury St Edmunds and started a petition as well.

The group helped organise charity Dentaid, which usually travels to third world countries, to visit Bury in November to offer treatment to residents struggling to book appointments through the NHS.

During one of the visits, one resident, Hannah Vikry, said she had been in ‘excruciating’ pain with a cracked tooth and was told she would have to pay £280 for treatment.

Steve Marsling, joint coordinator of the Toothless in Suffolk campaign, said the situation should not be so bad that residents have to rely on charity for treatment.

Steve Marsling, joint coordinator of the Toothless in Suffolk campaign. Picture: Mark Westley.
Steve Marsling, joint coordinator of the Toothless in Suffolk campaign. Picture: Mark Westley.

"As grateful as we are to Dentaid for helping us through this crisis we must remember that people have paid for Dental treatment through their National Insurance contributions and taxes," he said.

"This Government is levelling down."

Jill Harding, communications manager for Dentaid outside their unit in November. Picture: Mark Westley.
Jill Harding, communications manager for Dentaid outside their unit in November. Picture: Mark Westley.

In December, MP for Bury St Edmunds Jo Churchill admitted the dental situation in Suffolk was 'incredibly complex' and there was no 'quick fix'.

She said there was a challenge with the number of dentists, dental technicians and nurses who were willing to work.

Eddie Crouch, chair of the British Dental Association, had stronger words and said patients in the county were currently living under a 'broken NHS dental system'.

Eddie Crouch, chair of the British Dental Association. Picture: Mark Westley.
Eddie Crouch, chair of the British Dental Association. Picture: Mark Westley.

Mr Crouch, who attended the Toothless in Suffolk rally in Bury last October, said: "Even before Covid a growing number of dentists couldn’t see a future for themselves in a service plagued by failed contracts and underfunding. That trickle is now set to become a flood.

“For over a decade dentists have worked to a broken system that has singularly failed to recognise and reward commitment to the NHS. Now they are being punished for it.

“Ministers have failed to grasp that we can’t have NHS dentistry without NHS dentists.

"Imposing fanciful targets in the middle of the Omicron wave could be the final nail in the coffin.

“Real reform is needed now to stem the flow and protect services millions depend on.

"Tinkering around the edges will amount to shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.”

MP Jo Churchill said: "I have been in constant dialogue with the Department of Health and Social Care, Ministers and NHS England with regards to the lack of NHS dentistry in Bury St Edmunds and indeed across Suffolk.

"I urged the Minister to continue the dialogue with the British Dental Association which I initiated during my time at the Department of Health, to ensure we have a dental contract in place that works for both dentistry and patients.

"I am also in regular communications with Ed Garratt and others in order to bring more dental provision into the system as quickly as possible."

CCGs were created following the Health and Social Care Act in 2012 and are NHS bodies responsible for the planning and commissioning of health care services for their local area.