New data reveals extent of Suffolk’s dental crisis

Published:
7:30 AM July 18, 2022



Experts estimate that one million NHS dental appointments have been lost in Suffolk in the past two years and only one district is taking on new NHS patients.

New data from the British Dental Association has revealed the extent of the county’s dental crisis. 

From April 2020 to April 2022, the BDA estimates that over one million NHS appointments were lost across the county. 

This includes appointments for over 190,000 children. 

Based on typical levels of care, the association claims that approximately 1,510,223 treatments would have been administered in the absence of Covid-19. 

In reality, the county saw a total of 397,459.

In addition, Mid Suffolk is the only district out of five currently accepting new adult NHS patients – though only 16.7% of dentists in this area are doing so.

This means just 3.3% of dental practices across the whole of Suffolk are taking on new adult NHS patients. 





NHS dentistry in the county has long been the target of fierce criticism

– Credit: Charlotte Bond

Eddie Crouch, chair of the British Dental Association, said: “NHS dentistry is on the brink and families across Suffolk are paying the price. 

“Underfunded and overstretched, the service is now haemorrhaging talent, while families are unable to secure the care they desperately need. 

“This is a crisis made in Westminster. 

“Until ministers deliver real reform and fair funding, we will not see progress.”

NHS dentistry in the county has long been the target of fierce criticism, with campaigners previously warning that it “could soon become extinct”.

Last year, MP for Waveney, Peter Aldous, warned of a “dental desert” if the situation didn’t soon improve.

Data published in January revealed there had been at least a 27% decrease in NHS dentists across the county since 2020, while the Department of Health ranked the West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) as the joint third-worst affected area in England in terms of staff losses.


Waveney MP Peter Aldous


Waveney MP Peter Aldous has warned of a “dental desert” if Suffolk’s situation didn’t soon improve

– Credit: UK Parliament

A number of towns across the county that lack NHS dental services have been visited by mobile clinics from dental charity, Dentaid. 

Organised by the campaign group, Toothless in Suffolk, both Leiston, which has not had an NHS dentist since April 2021, and Bury St Edmunds saw pop-up clinics earlier this year. 

The team that attended Bury St Edmunds was forced to turn a number of patients away after reaching maximum capacity.

Speaking on the latest figures from the BDA, Mark Jones, England coordinator of Toothless in England, said: “With every release of NHS dentistry figures comes the further realisation that the East of England NHS commissioners and those pulling the strings in Westminster have utterly failed the people of Suffolk, and have been doing so for more than a decade.

“It would take a momentous effort to restore this most essential of NHS services to where it needs to be.”


Mark Jones on the left hand side holding a protest sign


Mark Jones (left) said: “It would take a momentous effort to restore this most essential of NHS services to where it needs to be”

– Credit: Mark Jones

In a bid to tackle the crisis, a new dental project established to bring more NHS dentists to the region will see a new centre developed at the University of Suffolk. 

The centre will be a place to train dentists and provide treatment to patients on the NHS. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “We financially supported NHS dental practices and reduced expectations on the number of patients that could be seen in order to protect patients and clinical staff during the pandemic.

“We have since asked NHS dentists to return to 100% delivery of their contracted activity, which many practices are already achieving.


The University of Suffolk, Waterfront Campus in Ipswich.


A new centre developed at the University of Suffolk will be a place to train dentists and provide treatment to patients on the NHS

– Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

“We are working closely with the NHS to reform the dental system and are negotiating improvements to the contract to increase access for patients and ensure working in the NHS remains attractive to dentists.”

NHS East of England has reiterated its dedication to improving access to services across the country.

A spokesperson for the organisation said it is “committed to ensuring everyone can access high-quality dental care”, adding: “Urgent and emergency dental care is available for those who need it, and people should continue to use the NHS 111 service for advice on where to go.” 

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