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Suffolk health boss says he is 'ashamed' of current NHS dental provision in the county



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A Suffolk health chief has said he is 'ashamed' of current NHS dental provision in the county, and vowed to do everything possible to improve the situation when commissioning powers change.

Plans have been announced for the commissioning of dental services to move from NHS England to the local Integrated Care System (ICS) – local partnerships of health commissioners and providers.

Dr Ed Garratt, executive lead for the Suffolk and North East Essex ICS, spoke at last week’s Health and Wellbeing Board.

Dr Ed Garratt, chief executive of Ipswich and East Suffolk and West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups. Picture: Ben Carmichael/Suffolk CCGS
Dr Ed Garratt, chief executive of Ipswich and East Suffolk and West Suffolk clinical commissioning groups. Picture: Ben Carmichael/Suffolk CCGS

He said: “The responsibility for commissioning dentistry is going to move from NHS England to the Integrated Care Board within the next year or 18 months, so we will have a lot more local control.

“But I think it has become the biggest issue for our communities, so we are absolutely going to do everything we can to improve the situation

“I am pretty ashamed of it at the moment, it needs to improve.”

A Suffolk health chief has said he is 'ashamed' of current NHS dental provision in the county, and vowed to do everything possible to improve the situation when commissioning powers change. Picture: iStock
A Suffolk health chief has said he is 'ashamed' of current NHS dental provision in the county, and vowed to do everything possible to improve the situation when commissioning powers change. Picture: iStock

A spokesman from the ICS added: “We are currently in early discussions with NHS England about the local transfer of commissioning responsibilities for NHS dental services, which is anticipated to happen by 2023.”

Availability of NHS dentists has become a key problem in the county, with some towns such as Leiston losing entire surgeries.

A meeting of East Suffolk Council’s scrutiny committee last month found that dentist posts were routinely taking two or more years to fill in Suffolk, while the set-up of the NHS contracts meant they were not attractive for surgeries to offer.

Other problems highlighted included the lack of a dental school in the region and the complicated red tape for fully qualified dentists from other countries to join the NHS dental performers list.

Jill Harding outside the DentAid unit, which visited Bury St Edmunds to help cope with demand. Picture: Mark Westley
Jill Harding outside the DentAid unit, which visited Bury St Edmunds to help cope with demand. Picture: Mark Westley

The Toothless in Suffolk campaign group formed during the Covid-19 pandemic has campaigned for changes, while charity Dentaid’s recent two days in Bury St Edmunds with its bus clinic were packed out.

Changes to NHS contracts have been proposed for next year which will include seven-days-per-week provision with more flexibility, although full details are yet to be published.

The Department for Health and Social Care has said that the full range of dental services have been available since June 2020, with work continuing with the NHS to improve access to services.

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