Nine-month wait for dental services 'unacceptable', campaigners say
- Credit: Getty/iStockphoto/Sarah Lucy Brown
The NHS has committed to bringing new dental services to Suffolk next summer - but campaigners say the wait for treatment is "outrageous".
NHS England has written to Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter to confirm the procurement of seven-day services.
However, campaign group Toothless in Suffolk has criticised the delay and said patients are turning to private care and charity treatment.
A number of towns in Suffolk have lost their dental practices in the last 18 months - with two surgeries closing in Leiston alone.
This has forced some patients based in east Suffolk to seek NHS dental care from as far away as north Essex or go private.
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Dr Poulter wrote to NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard at the end of August after receiving concerns from a number of people living in his constituency.
In the response, the NHS has said it is procuring new dental services for Suffolk and Norfolk which will provide services for adults and children.
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Dr Poulter welcomed the commitment, but was "disappointed" to learn patients could be waiting nine months or more for new services.
He said: "Many residents have contacted me outlining the difficulties they have faced in accessing NHS dental services.
"As well as struggling to secure routine NHS dental care appointments, a number of these residents were in pain and discomfort and unable to access emergency dental care.
"Whilst I am pleased to have secured this commitment from NHS England, I remain disappointed that we are looking at a nine-month timetable until these improved services become available.
"It is vital that residents in Suffolk can access proper NHS dental care when required and I will continue to press NHS England to ensure the timely delivery of dental services across Central Suffolk and North Ipswich."
Steve Marsling, of Toothless in Suffolk, said: "To have to wait nine months is absolutely outrageous. People are suffering in pain - they can't wait that long.
"This is an emergency. People are in pain and getting into financial hardship.
"This timetable is totally unacceptable to Toothless in Suffolk - we're not taking this lying down."