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MP hears Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket constituents' problems during NHS dentistry summit

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The NHS dentistry crisis in Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket was discussed at an online summit on Tuesday.

MP Jo Churchill invited constituents to the summit, saying she wanted to hear the views of people unable to access dental services.

Following the online summit, Mrs Churchill said: “This week’s dentistry round table enabled me to hear further representations from both stakeholders and constituents on their views of the current dentistry situation in the Bury constituency.

MP Jo Churchill
MP Jo Churchill

“I am in no doubt that things need to change, an opinion I have had for some time, notwithstanding that covid and dentist shortages have exacerbated the situation.”

Mrs Churchill has organised a second dentistry event on October 28, from 6.30-7.30pm and invited the regional commissioner responsible for delivering dentistry in Suffolk.

“NHS England are aware that in my opinion they are not currently commissioning for need across the constituency. I have already reached out to the new minister, as I do not want focus on this issue to fade.”

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

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.

Meanwhile, some residents have been performing DIY dentistry after being unable to access NHS services.

In an open letter to constituents, Mrs Churchill said: “I agree with constituents that NHS dentistry provision in Bury and Stowmarket has been lacking for some time.

“NHS England’s role is to commission to need, but across Suffolk and specifically in Bury 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, Mrs Churchill was health minister with responsibility for dentistry before being moved to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The MP 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’.

To attend the next round table event, email jo.churchill.mp@parliament.uk.

- 'Toothless in Suffolk' campaigners will march in Bury on Sunday, assembling on Angel Hill at 11am, marching at 11.30am before assembling in the Abbey Gardens to hear from speakers.

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