New NHS dental contracts for East of England – but some areas still without dental care

09 February 2022
2 min read
Mark Jones, 'Flossy' the mascot and Eddie Crouch
Mark Jones, 'Flossy' the mascot and Eddie Crouch

New NHS dental contracts have been awarded in areas where people have been struggling to access care, according to BBC News.

In a letter to local MPs, NHS England and NHS Improvement explained that they had “completed a procurement process aimed at providing access to 8am-8pm dental services across Norfolk and Suffolk, 365 days a year, including bank holidays.

“Through an open procurement process, seven contracts (Lots) were advertised for potential providers to apply for. As a result, the following contracts have been awarded to the names providers below:

  • Lot 1, King’s Lynn, Norfolk – Smile Care Norfolk Limited
  • Lot 2, King’s Lynn, Norfolk – Smile Care Norfolk Limited
  • Lot 3, Norwich, Norfolk – Smile Care Norfolk Limited
  • Lot 6, Lowestoft, Suffolk – Apps Smiles Limited

“Unfortunately, it was not possible to offer contracts for Lots 4, 5 and 7 at this point, covering Fakenham (Norfolk), Thetford (Norfolk) and Leiston (Suffolk), respectively.”

Leiston has not had a dental surgery since April 2021.

“The awarded contracts will commence by July 1, 2022, which will significantly increase access to local dentist provision across a number of communities,” the letter explained.

Regarding the lack of contracts for Fakenham, Thetford and Leiston, they added, “NHS England and NHS Improvement – East of England certainly recognises the existing dentistry services challenges in these specific areas. We continue to work towards re-commissioning services in these geographical areas with the aim to have services available commencing summer of 2022.

“In the interim period, existing NHS contract holders have been invited to take on additional activity to potentially support communities in these areas.

“The procurement process for these ‘8-8’ dental services took into account a review held with clinicians, the general public and current patients, to approach a service model that delivers high quality, affordable dental care to meet the future needs of the population of Norfolk and Suffolk.”

The BBC has reported that “The contracts specify these companies will provide between 15,000 and 21,875 units of dental activity (UDA) a year.

“According to NHS documents, one UDA is the equivalent to a check-up, while fillings account for three UDAs and dentures 12.

“The amount the NHS will pay for each unit would not exceed £32, according to the contract tender notice.”

Mark Jones (pictured, left) from the campaign group Toothless in Suffolk, has been highlighting gaps in dental care across the county and elsewhere.

He told the broadcaster, "It would appear that the town that alerted us to this crisis in NHS dentistry, by losing both of their dental practices in the space of a year, has missed out.

"Leiston's residents have been left behind with very little hope other than relying on charity.

"The contract that was being offered was short-term with no guarantee of an extension.

"It required dentists to work a 12-hour day, seven days a week, with UDA target remuneration, which was unfair. It's no wonder that the contracts weren't taken up."