4:16 PM September 3, 2022
Dental patients will soon no longer receive NHS treatment at a north Norfolk surgery, which has blamed the move on under-investment and skyrocketing costs.
Compass Clinic at Kelling Hospital, near Holt, has written to its patients saying it will only accept private patients from November 30.
A clinic letter says: “Due to a chronic lack of investment in NHS dentistry by successive governments, coupled with rapidly rising costs, means we no longer feel that we can provide the level of dental care you have come to expect and remain a viable business.”
Compass said that like “many other NHS practices” across the UK, it had to make “crucial decisions” to ensure its survival.
The letter continued: “As such, we have made the decision to move away from the NHS and will no longer be seeing patients under the NHS from November 30.
“Instead, we will be here to provide your dental care on a private basis.”
The letter invites patients to join a paid-for membership plan.
Among the Compass patients affected is Lucy Barnes, from Holt. She said the announcement “came as a bit of a shock” and would add to the cost-of-living crisis and soaring energy prices.
Ms Barnes said the membership plan would be unaffordable.
She said: “I worked out it would cost me and my two daughters £390 a year. We’re usually told to come every nine months.
“I usually pay around £20 and of course my children have been free. It’s just completely unaffordable and unfortunately it’s going to mean a lot of people stop attending these crucial check-ups.”
According to the NHS website, the only dental surgery accepting new patients in north Norfolk is Grovefield in North Walsham, and then only if they are referred.
In May, figures published by the Association of Dental Groups (ADG) showed that, across Norfolk and Waveney, there was just one dentist for every 2,600 people.
The region had just 38 dentists per 100,000 residents.
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Duncan Baker, North Norfolk MP, said he would seek a meeting with Compass to see if there was a chance they could keep some NHS capacity in the future.
Mr Baker said: “This is another sign of the woeful underinvestment there is in NHS dentistry provision.
“We won’t get around this issue unless we have a fundamental, root-and-branch reform of the contract system and pay dentists in the NHS an equivalent amount as in the private sector.”
Mr Baker said attracting dentists to rural areas such as north Norfolk was an ongoing challenge, and even when a contract for an NHS dentist was offered – for example recently in Fakenham – no-one took it up.
He said solutions could include opening a new dentistry school at the University of East Anglia, which he had been campaigning for.
Mr Baker, whose father was an NHS dentist for 34 years, said: “Students would train here, qualify and then emanate into the surrounding areas.”
Making it easier for foreign dentists to work here could also help, he added.