Dental access ‘frightening’, says MP on ongoing battle in West Norfolk
North West Norfolk’s MP continues to fight for a better dental provision as residents struggle to book appointments during the pandemic.
Following the closure of My Dentist in Lynn town centre, former patients are finding it difficult to access an NHS dentist in West Norfolk.
MP James Wild told BBC Radio Norfolk on Wednesday that the situation for his constituents in terms of access to dentists was “frightening”.
He said that so far 150 people have replied to his online survey on the subject and about a third of those are unable to get an appointment.
Of those that contacted, 65 per cent said they were with a dentist, far below the national average of 90 per cent.
“Covid has just made this worse,” he said. “We need short-term plans but also medium and long-term solutions.”
Mr Wild said he planned to speak to the health minister responsible in the next few weeks about the situation.
Concerns have been expressed that a letter sent to health secretary Matt Hancock in September has only been acknowledged this month,
The letter was sent by Penny Carpenter, chairman of Norfolk Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
It said: “The situation in Norfolk and Waveney is simply unacceptable and has been for years.
“We know that Covid 19 has made things worse because the necessary measures to reduce the spread of infection drastically reduce the numbers of patients that dentists can see. However, the difficulties in accessing NHS dentistry in our area pre date Covid-19 by a very long way.”
The delay in acknowledgement is understood to be caused by unprecedented volumes of correspondence the department has received.
NHS dental practices in the region have been asked to provide service on Saturdays and Sundays along with some evenings to increase access with extra pay for these hours.
It is hoped a new practice at Marham will ease the demand for dental provision, but fears continue to be expressed after a letter was sent to the health secretary in September.
West Norfolk county councillor Alex Kemp said the serious situation should have been addressed much earlier.
She also fears it is impossible for dentists to deliver 45 per cent capacity during the pandemic as requested by the NHS at the start of November.
She said: “The effect could be more dentists leaving the NHS or choosing to deliver only those procedures that are not time-consuming, putting off those that are.”