Poll: Are you struggling to access a NHS dentist as British Dental Association says King's Lynn NHS coverage is 'a scandal'
The British Dental Association (BDA) has labelled dental provision in West Norfolk "a scandal".
It has called on Health Secretary Matt Hancock, to act on an emerging crisis in the East of England that’s forcing new patients to travel more than 60 miles to access NHS dentistry.
News comes in the face of the imminent closure two practices in Snettisham and East Harling - leaving over 7,000 patients struggling to find dental practices with capacity to take on new patients.
The BDA has warned that access problems, which have traditionally been centred on urban areas in West Yorkshire, have become an everyday reality across England, with patients in King's Lynn now having to travel over 60 miles to Boston to secure access.
BDA analysis of NHS Choices data reveals this now includes parts of Matt Hancock’s own West Suffolk constituency, where communities like Brandon and Haverhill have no practices able to take on new adult NHS patients. Across the whole constituency just over 10 per cent of practices are able to take on new adult NHS patients, with a little over one-in-four taking new child patients.
The Health Secretary recently pledged to put prevention at the heart of NHS strategy – but failed to make any commitment to dentistry.
The Westminster Government's spend per head on NHS dentistry has fallen by £4.95, from £40.95 to £36, in the last five years.
The Government has yet to honour commitments to reform the discredited NHS dental contract, based on hitting tough activity targets for curative treatment, which has fuelled access problems.
The current contract effectively limits the number of patients NHS dentists can treat; dental practices face punitive penalties if they fail to meet crude targets but are not allowed to do more even if they have capacity to meet demand.
Recent official data has shown morale among dentists is now at an all-time low, with lower levels of morale linked to higher NHS commitments. BDA surveys from 2017 have estimated that 65.3 per cent of practices who tried recruiting last year experienced difficulties filling vacancies.
Henrik Overgaard-Nielsen, the British Dental Association’s chair of General Dental Practice said: "It’s a scandal that patients in Kings Lynn are now facing over 60-mile journeys to access NHS care.
"This is a crisis is made in Westminster. Ministers have chosen to fund care for little over half the population, while dentists work to a contract that puts government targets ahead of patient care.
"The result is practices are struggling to fill vacancies, and residents are waiting longer or travelling further for an appointment.
"If Matt Hancock is serious about putting prevention at the heart of NHS strategy he needs to act on a crisis brewing in his own backyard, and ensure families who want NHS dentistry can access it."