Moves to assess the number of people in Copeland who are not registered with an NHS dentist

Measures are underway to assess the extent of NHS dental services in Copeland – after a practice closes, many residents have nowhere to go.

Healthwatch Cumbria is hoping to hear from anyone who is not registered with a dentist, following the continued impact of the closure of Cleator Moor dental practice in 2016.

That left only about 70% of its patients with alternative services in practices between four and 30 miles away, according to the organization that advocates for patients.

At the time, the Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, now part of the North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, said it was a ‘tough decision’ but said it was due to the retirement of two dentists and a third having given his opinion.

Speaking in 2016, Stephen Jones, clinical director of the trust, said: “For the past 18 months, we have made vigorous attempts to recruit additional dentists into the practice, which unfortunately have proved unsuccessful.”

The organization also claims that Copeland continues to face a space shortage despite the much higher average rate of tooth decay in young children.

Kate Rees, Head of Engagement at Healthwatch Cumbria, said: “We are looking to hear from people who have had trouble getting NHS dental treatment because they are not on a dental practice patient list.

“We also want to talk to people who have had to travel many miles to see an NHS dentist because they cannot register with a dentist near them.

“We need people to come forward and tell us about their experiences. The accounts of real people will make it clear to those who command NHS services and shape politics how bad the situation is for the people of Copeland.

“It is important to stress that we are looking to speak to people who do not have an NHS dentist, and not to people who have not been able to obtain dental care due to the pandemic.”

The organization seeks to “find a solution, bringing together representatives of the public, healthcare professionals and the University of Central Lancashire for sustainable dental delivery in West Cumbria”.

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Robert Young

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