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100 per cent increase in calls to Suffolk GPs for urgent dental support

Suffolk GPs have seen a 100 per cent increase in calls for urgent dental support since March 2020, while almost 100,000 residents cannot access a dentist by public transport in 30 minutes or less.

These statistics have been revealed in a report to be discussed by Suffolk County Council’s health scrutiny committee on Wednesday, July 12 – the first scrutiny meeting since the commissioning of dental services was delegated to integrated care boards (ICBs) from NHS England.

ICBs manage health budgets and health service provision at a local level, and include members from NHS trusts, local authorities and GPs. They replaced clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) in 2022.

43 per cent of children in care are unable to access or register with a dentist
43 per cent of children in care are unable to access or register with a dentist

A report to be brought to councillors next Wednesday explains: “There have been longstanding issues with NHS dental access including NHS routine dental care and urgent dental care. This problem has been amplified by the current pandemic.

“The pain experienced, such as toothache or abscess can be considerable, intractable and distressing, and might lead sufferers to extreme measures to address pain if urgent dental care is not available.

“There are also wider societal impacts and costs that arise when people cannot access urgent care, such as increased demands and pressures placed on the wider health care system.”

In Bury St Edmunds, Dentaid has previously supported people in dire need – including someone who chiselled their own teeth to ease pain.

There are 114 dentists in Suffolk, while 397,000 residents cannot access a dentist in a 15-minute walk and 98,000 are unable to reach one by public transport in 30 minutes.

Out of children in care placed in Suffolk, 43 per cent are unable to access or register with a dentist.

In addition, 31 per cent of the county’s population unsuccessfully tried to get an appointment in the last two years, nine per cent more than the England average. Only 38 per cent accessed dentistry in the same time period, compared with 54 per cent before Covid.

In Waveney and Norfolk, there are no NHS dentists accepting new patients for treatment. Three contracts were commissioned in Norfolk and Waveney by NHS England between 2022 and 2023, to provide 8am to 8pm services every day of the year. One of these was in Lowestoft.