Government dental funding is slammed by campaigners

Steve Marsling delivering a petition over lack of Suffolk dental provision to Jo Churchill's office

Toothless in Suffolk campaigner Steve Marsling - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

A campaigner has slammed a Government announcement of £50million funding for NHS dentist appointments as "absolute nonsense". 

Steve Marsling, a co-ordinator of campaign group Toothless in Suffolk, said the problems with NHS dentistry could not be addressed by "throwing money at it that needed to be spent within a couple of months". 

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey said today (January 25) Department of Health cash had been allocated to provide 350,000 extra NHS appointments nationwide, including outside of normal hours in the early morning, evenings and weekends. 

However, Mr Marsling described the proposals as "unworkable" because the service needed to recruit skilled staff and existing dentists would not want to work the extra hours. 

He believed the announcement was a publicity stunt as part of so-called ‘Operation Red Meat’ to distract attention from alleged breaches of Covid-19 lockdown rules by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. 

“It is an absolute nonsense. Toothless in Suffolk is absolutely furious about this because it is a drop in the ocean. We have had 10 years of neglect by this Government which has seen NHS dentists leave in droves,” Mr Marsling added. 

Data has revealed an exodus of dentists from the service - including at least 27% in Suffolk since 2020. 

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Figures from the Department of Health showed the current joint third worst affected area in England is the West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which saw a fall of 21% of dentists completing NHS work between 2020 and 2021. 

Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG saw a drop of 6% during the same period, while Norfolk and Waveney CCG, which includes the Waveney area of Suffolk, saw 7% fewer dentists. 

Leiston man Mr Marsling, 70, wanted dental schools to be created and ‘golden hellos,’ financial incentives to encourage people to become dentists. 

Dr Coffey said: “The lack of NHS dental provision has become an increasing issue here in East Suffolk, especially in Leiston with some people telling me they have had to travel as far away as Colchester or Lowestoft to get an appointment.  

“I’ve been constantly pressing the case on behalf of patients, lobbying Ministers and NHS bosses, so I’m delighted this additional funding has been made available.”