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Bristol Post
Bristol Post
Lewis Clarke

Campaign launched fighting for dental care in St Pauls

A campaign has been launched to save a dentist in St Pauls closed by Bupa in June. Councillor Amirah Cole, who represents Ashley ward, has been working with local residents to protest the decision and demand alternative dental care for its NHS patients.

The dentist in Ashley Road was one of the few practices in Bristol that offered NHS dental services, serving around 7,000 patients, many of whom are low-income or vulnerable.

Bupa announced its decision to close the practice in May, citing 'operational reasons'. The company said it would help patients find alternative dental care but admitted that there were no other NHS dentists in Bristol taking on new patients.

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Coun Cole and the Dental Action Group have since met with the Integrated Care Board - the organisation responsible for dentistry provision - Sovereign Housing Association, and others in an effort to find another dentistry to operate from the same site.

Following this meeting, the NHS has confirmed it is looking for alternative dental providers to take over the site. And Bupa has agreed to transfer all its fixed and big equipment to the new operators at no cost. Sovereign Housing Association has committed to supporting the property to remain a dental practice.

But Coun Cole said that the three dentists who treated NHS patients and wanted to remain at the St Pauls practice have had to move on. She said this was a 'pity' and a 'loss' for the community.

She has also tabled a motion for the July 11 council, seeking support for putting the council’s full weight behind this campaign.

The motion includes resolutions to:

  • Lobby the ICB to ensure all Bupa NHS patients are offered dental care nearby
  • Call on the ICB to undertake procurement to provide additional NHS dentists across Bristol
  • Facilitate the opening of dentists in areas of high growth
  • Lobby the government to reform dentist contracts so that dentists are adequately compensated for carrying out NHS work

Coun Cole said that the lack of sustainable, affordable dental care was not a problem limited to Ashley ward, but a city-wide and national issue.

She said: “People in Ashley are rightly very worried by the closure of St Paul’s dentist, leaving most of its patients without access to dental care. There are no, or very few, dentists in Bristol taking on new patients and none taking on NHS patients. Many people cannot afford private dentistry, so would resort to doing their own dental work – something I have already heard reports of.”

She added: “I know the problems with dentistry go much further than St Paul’s, it’s a problem not only in Bristol but across the UK. This motion seeks the councillors support in getting the ICB to start procuring more dentists across the city and for it to be proactive in finding new NHS dentists in areas of high population growth. We’re rightly building thousands of new homes in areas like Bedminster and Hengrove, so the health services need to be proactive in building more dentists and GPs there too.”

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She also blamed the current dental contract for discouraging dentists from taking on NHS work. She said: “Another part of the problem is that the current dental contract means that dentists are not properly compensated for taking on NHS work – this needs to change. When they can earn much more on private patients, this will inevitably lead to a worse service for the low paid and most vulnerable people in Bristol.”

She concluded: “In the short term we need an NHS dentist in Ashley. In the long term, we need wholesale change from the top to ensure people have access to sustainable, affordable dental care across Bristol and the UK.”

The Dental Action Group has launched a petition to save St Pauls dentist, which has gathered over 1,000 signatures so far. The petition can be found here.

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