BDA’s Nick Stolls explains NHS Suffolk appointments

A dentist has spoken out after Suffolk NHS patients detailed the pain they have been left in for months as they struggle to get appointments for toothache and broken teeth.

Nick Stolls of the British Dental Association says their membership survey found that almost half (47%) said dentists were ‘likely’ or ‘extremely likely’ to ‘reduce their commitment to the NHS’ because the dental care delivery system has become “broken”.

Mr Stolls, who sits on the BDA’s general dental practice committee for East Anglia, added that 30% of UK dentists – who are hired to provide services to the NHS and have private practices – were willing to ‘become fully private ‘and the situation is gradually worsening in Suffolk as dentists retire.


Dentists grapple with patient abuse. Image: Getty Images / iStockphoto
– Credit: Getty Images / iStockphoto

In one example, he said, after two dentists with NHS appointments retired at Lowestoft last year, including practices DW Ferns and AP Yaxley, their contracts were not awarded elsewhere at another office in Suffolk, so local patients have less access to dental appointments in the area.

The NHS contract can also create the wrong incentives, as fixing a filler is worth the same as setting 10 and there is no leniency if care takes longer.


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“The [department of health and social care and NHS] put the treatment in one of the three bands, which is like having the same entrance fees to a restaurant, ”he said.

“Dentists want to prioritize patients who need urgent treatment,” he added, but they often don’t have enough NHS appointments available under their contract and if they were to see people when they don’t have the slots, they would see them for free.

If there aren’t enough appointments made by overwhelmed dentists, then the money from their NHS contract is ‘clawed back’, Mr Stolls said, by NHS teams East of England in Suffolk, then returned to government, not dental services.

“This figure is increasing year by year,” he added, while “spending per person [on NHS dental care] has declined from 38% to 40% over the past 10 years, ”he added.

“Keeping up with the pace of treatment and finding the extra money would mean people would have access [dental care] easier.”


Jo Churchill, MP for Bury St Edmunds, told a cancer conference about her experiences in battling the disease

Jo Churchill, MP for Bury St Edmunds, told a cancer conference about her experiences in battling the disease
– Credit: House of Commons

Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill, whose government brief included dental treatment, admitted on May 25 that the NHS contract system – currently under negotiation by the NHS and DHSC – is ‘broken’

She said: “The UDA – dental activity unit – system, set up by the government of labort in 2006, is broken; we understand it’s broken, but these things take over a month to fall into place.

“To improve access for those who need it most, we continue with flexible provisioning, focusing on those with health inequalities and on available capacity where it will be most needed. impact on oral health. “

Adding to this already long-standing problem is the pandemic’s toll on dental services, with the NHS saying dentists need to reach 60% of their pre-Covid activity levels, but said they currently cannot seeing patients in large numbers. because they are still subject to restrictions.

This means dentists spend a lot of time putting on and taking off their protective gear, and extra time is allowed between appointments.

All of this has led to situations where Ipswich residents like Belinda Lewis, who is fortunate enough to have an NHS dentist at Orwell dental practice, spend 11 weeks with pain in their eyes, ears, nose and cheek while waiting for a filling and eventually lose a tooth.

A DHSC spokesperson: “All dental offices have been able to provide the full range of face-to-face care since last summer, with over 600 offices providing additional support for urgent dental treatment.

“We continue to support the most vulnerable through dental fee waivers and through the NHS Low Income Scheme. Almost half of all dental treatments – over 17 million – were provided free of charge in 2019-2020. “

People in pain should call NHS 111 to access an emergency dental center.


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Robert Young

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