Campaigners say Suffolk dental plan is 'fundamentally flawed'

Campaigners have said a new NHS dental plan was "fundamentally flawed".

Toothless in England has criticised the Improving Oral Health in SNEE: ICB Dental Plan by Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care Board (SNEE ICB).

Mark Jones, the campaign's spokesman, said the strategy was "underdeveloped and lacks real evidence".

SNEE ICB said the plan had been developed with "local dental leaders" who have advised it on how to improve access to NHS dental care.

The strategy would include promoting oral health amongst children in early years, supporting the recruitment and development of dental staff, and flexible contracts for dental practices.

Under the scheme, 20 practices across the two counties have already been commissioned to increase their opening hours and provide additional NHS sessions to priority groups, including children in care, the homeless, those with learning disabilities and refugees.

Peter Wightman, the executive director lead for dental commissioning at SNEE ICB, said the plan was "really ambitious".

"We're trying to achieve roughly a 10% growth in dental activity over the next three years and that will get us back to fully deploying every NHS pound in the NHS dental market," he continued.

Despite this, Mr Jones said the board had rejected campaigners' advice given over 18 months of engagement between the two organisations.

"We cannot, in all honesty, endorse the approach they're choosing to take," he said.

Toothless for England was founded in 2021 after the only NHS dental practices in Leiston, Suffolk, closed.

The group have called for reforms to NHS dental contracts and free dental treatments.

Mr Jones continued: "SNEE's strategy is underdeveloped and lacks any real evidence suggesting that patients will be better provided for in the future.

"It offers no hope for those suffering in pain right now, nor does it make any great strides towards procuring mobile dental clinics to treat underserved rural and coastal communities, something we've called for from day one."

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