New NHS dentist places in Suffolk 'by next summer'

Dentists are requesting 'urgent help' with only a third set to open in Suffolk. Picture: Getty Image

A procurement process is under way to bolster NHS dental services in Suffolk - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

New NHS dentist services could be up and running in Suffolk by next summer as part of a bid to improve the availability of appointments - amid widespread fears of a "dental disaster".

There have been complaints over a "huge inequality in the availability of NHS dental care" after towns like Leiston lost all their NHS practices.

In one horror story, a frustrated patient in desperate pain from an abscess was driven to trying to extract their own teeth - because of growing problems trying to find an NHS dentist.

However, the NHS has confirmed a procurement process for new dental services, for routine and urgent appointments for adults and children in Suffolk, is now under way.

If providers are found, the services could be up and running in the summer next year and be open 12 hours a day, 365 days a year - including bank holidays.

They would also be open to vulnerable people including the homeless, asylum seekers and those who do not have recourse to public funds.

A spokesman for the NHS in the East of England said: "We are committed to ensuring everyone can access high quality dental care, and we are working closely with dental providers to improve access to services.

"We are pleased to currently be in the process of procuring new dental services for Norfolk and Suffolk which will provide new services for adults and children operating from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week for routine as well as urgent appointments.

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“Urgent and emergency dental care is available for those who need it, and people should continue to use the NHS 111 service for advice on where to go.”

Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, is pleased with the honest reflection from the

Healthwatch Suffolk chief executive Andy Yacoub has warned of a 'dental disaster' in Suffolk - Credit: Gregg Brown

Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, has warned: "We’ve seen a number of dentists in our county shut down or transition into full private practice, leaving thousands of people with no access to local dental care."

He said the watchdog hears "daily from people struggling to access the support and treatment they, or their children and family, need".

And politicians say they also receive regular complaints from constituents, with Ipswich MP Tom Hunt urging the government  to "urgently address" the wider problems.