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Bury St Edmunds Toothless in Suffolk rally highlighting lack of NHS dentistry in the county attracts crowds of supporters



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Crowds of residents took to the streets of Bury St Edmunds today in a march organised by campaign group Toothless in Suffolk to highlight the lack of NHS dentistry services.

The rally saw campaigners meet on Angel Hill and take a short route through the centre of the town, looping back to Hatter Street past Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill's office.

The crowds were fronted by campaign co-ordinators Mark Jones and Steve Marsling who were joined by British Dental Association (BDA) chair Eddie Crouch, a practising dentist from Birmingham, and Nick Stolls, a retired Norfolk dentist and member of the BDA.

Around eighty people attended the march this morning. Picture by Mark Westley.
Around eighty people attended the march this morning. Picture by Mark Westley.

Specially designed placards and a banner created a sea of blue through the town centre as over eighty campaigners joined the march, shouting various chants including 'no dentists, no teeth' and 'we love the NHS'.

The demonstration went ahead despite many Labour party campaigners choosing not to march this weekend following the death of Southend West MP Sir David Amess on Friday.

Steve Marsling, who is a Communist Party member, said: "We're going ahead because we think people need to know about how much pain some people in Bury and other areas are in and how much financial hardship they're suffering because they've had to go private.

"We think that's more important than people's sensitivities."

Steve Marsling, coordinator of the event, speaking in the Abbey Garden. Picture by Mark Westley.
Steve Marsling, coordinator of the event, speaking in the Abbey Garden. Picture by Mark Westley.

Speaking on what he hoped would be achieved following the demonstration, Steve added: "We want to see NHS dentists restored all over Suffolk, that's our aim.

"We're in 2021, we're the fifth richest country in the world, and we haven't got any."

Steve said that upon retiring from work he was told he had paid in enough national insurance to cover him for 45 years, leaving him angered by the inability to source an NHS dentist.

"As far as I am concerned, I've paid in but I can't get the service. Its a right that people have paid in for.

"The campaign has been met by wild enthusiasm by their constituents but a deafening silence from some MPs and councillors.

"They just don't seem to get the extent of the crisis. Their constituents get it because they're on the receiving end of the hardship."

Campaigners are calling for improved NHS dental provision in Suffolk. Picture by Mark Westley.
Campaigners are calling for improved NHS dental provision in Suffolk. Picture by Mark Westley.

Addressing the crowd later on in the Abbey Gardens, he added: "This situation is no longer tolerable and I hope that you all stay with this campaign, because quite frankly we need you."

Listeners also heard the plight of several other campaigners, including Councillor Darren Turner, Out Westgate ward, who described his struggle when a painful 'golf ball sized abscess' and impacted wisdom tooth set him back £400.

Eddie Crouch, BDA chairman, addressing the crowds in the Abbey Garden after the march. Picture by Mark Westley.
Eddie Crouch, BDA chairman, addressing the crowds in the Abbey Garden after the march. Picture by Mark Westley.

Danielle Watts, whose story of her removing 11 of her own teeth due to lack of NHS dentist options went viral several weeks ago, spoke in the Abbey Gardens about her experience.

She said that after trying to get appointments multiple times over the years and being told she had to go private at every local surgery, she had to take matters into her own hands.

"I hadn't even pulled my teeth out as such, they've become so loose that they've just gradually grown out themselves.

"By the time I've removed the teeth with a gentle twist or a pull there's been no blood because they are literally hanging onto nothing."

Danielle Watts with her children Oscar, 12 and Eliza, 8. Picture by Mark Westley.
Danielle Watts with her children Oscar, 12 and Eliza, 8. Picture by Mark Westley.

Danielle is now looking to the government to prioritise dental care in hopes that her son, Oscar, who is 12, will be able to get braces soon.

"They just recently had a big old conference, and I know that NHS dentistry was just skirted over. It wasn't even mentioned I don't think.

"More government focus is needed, they need to sit up and pay attention to the real people."

Nick Stolls, retired dentist and BDA member, attended the march. Picture by Mark Westley.
Nick Stolls, retired dentist and BDA member, attended the march. Picture by Mark Westley.

Nick Stolls, a Suffolk resident and retired Norfolk dentist representing the British Dental Association, said the same issues are replicated across the rest of the country.

"Until something is done at government level to make a difference, to actually make some changes, to reform their contracts so that patients can access NHS dentists, then these kinds of rallies will continue.

"Pressure from members of the public will make a difference. It's really important that they start to vote with their feet and use their voices, and when they can't get NHS dentists they need to make it clear to the government and in the media.

Campaigners carried placards and banners through the streets of Bury St Edmunds. Picture by Mark Westley.
Campaigners carried placards and banners through the streets of Bury St Edmunds. Picture by Mark Westley.

"We really are all working together. We're partnering with the public to make sure that we do make a change."

Also supporting the cause was Dave Whitton, a Scottish musician and part of legendary folk band The Clydesiders, who now lives in Felixstowe. He joined the crowds in the Abbey Gardens to sing a song he had written about the need for NHS dental appointments.

Further demonstrations are to be expected from Toothless in Suffolk, with organiser Mark Jones suggesting the movement would grow to a national level in 2022.

To sign the Toothless in Suffolk petition, click here.

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