Petition demands action over lack of NHS dental provision
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
Campaigners delivered a petition to the office of Suffolk MP Jo Churchill calling for NHS dental services to return to Leiston.
The east Suffolk town has been without any form of NHS dental provision since its final practice closed in April this year.
Leiston has lost both of its dentists in the past 18 months - and people in the town, which has a population of around 5,500, have been struggling to find a new practice.
On Thursday, protestor Steve Marsling, who started the Toothless in Leiston campaign, took the 700-signature petition to Mrs Churchill's office in Bury St Edmunds.
Mrs Churchill has responsibility of dentistry in her role as junior health minister.
Mr Marsling, who is standing as the Communist Party candidate in the Aldeburgh and Leiston by-election on July 8, said he contacted Mrs Churchill's office to let them know he was delivering the petition but no-one was there.
"The last dentist in the Leiston area closed on April 30 this year. None of us can get a national health dentist, there just aren't any," he said.
"People have had to go as far as Chelmsford to find a dentist.
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"I started a petition, Toothless in Leiston, and we've had a big campaign and we've had nearly 700 signatures.
"We decided to take this petition to say how serious this is and people were saying to us: 'Why don't you start a campaign in Bury?'
"It's a very serious situation. Some of the stories we've heard have been heartbreaking. It's affected me because I've lost my dentist and I can't get another one.
"I've tried Ipswich, I've tried Lowestoft, I tried Saxmundham. We need dental services back in this area."
Mrs Churchill's office was contacted for comment.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said previously: “We are committed to supporting the dental sector throughout this unprecedented pandemic so everyone across the country can access affordable, high-quality dental care.
“We continue to support the most vulnerable by providing exemptions from dental charges for certain groups."
Seven candidates from four parties are contesting the two seats in the Aldeburgh and Leiston by-election.
The candidates standing against Mr Marsling are as follows: Thomas Daly (Green), Ian Ilett (Labour), Matt Oakley (Green), Russ Rainger (Conservative), Andrew Reid (Conservative) and Mark Turner (Labour).