A new strategic plan headed up by the University of Suffolk and the Integrated Care Board has been hailed as a “game changer” in service provision across the county.
At a time when many cannot access local NHS dental provision, leading to some people extracting their own teeth and the formation of the Toothless in Suffolk Campaign group, the plan will see the formation of a centre for dental development on the University’s campus in Ipswich.
The centre will be run as a social dental enterprise in order to attract and train newly qualified dentists to work within this dental facility to supply additional much needed NHS dental provision across Suffolk as well as enabling leading edge education and training for the current and future dental workforce.
The project has been a year and a half in the preparation looking at providing dental services as well as education and skills provision and the plan’s initial starting point has three key components:
- The formation of a centre for dental development;
- The development of clinical simulation and treatment facilities to support the education and training of undergraduate students in dental therapy and hygiene and apprentice dental technicians and post graduate dentists as they progress their careers
- The development of a dental social enterprise offering NHS dental treatment;
It also has the backing of Suffolk’s MPs, in particular Jo Churchill, MP for Bury St Edmunds who has supported the project from the start after receiving numerous complaints from constituents about the lack of local NHS dental provision.
Professor Helen Langton, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Suffolk, said: “This plan will be a game changer in terms of future dental health provision in Suffolk and East Anglia.
The University of Suffolk, in partnership with the Integrated Care Board, our region’s MPs and NHS dentists, is determined to provide workforce solutions to the present oral health crisis.”
She added: “This will provide changes in the types of workforce and what the current workforce can do by offering a more modern training integrated with wider health care, hence we will offer a new model of dental care, a new model of organising care and a new model of workforce.”
Dr Ed Garratt, chief executive, NHS Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care Board, said: “This is an incredibly positive step forward.
“Improving dental workforce and provision is a priority for the new NHS Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care Board, which will take on dental commissioning responsibility from April 2023.
“We know that poor oral health adversely affects physical and mental health. It’s also so important our children get a good start in life with regular dental check-ups to help them develop strong and healthy teeth into adulthood.
“We recognise that this is a medium term solution that will not fix the immediate challenges around dental access. However, we believe that our brilliant University of Suffolk will lay the foundations for improvements in the future and we thank them for their partnership.”
Ms Churchill commented: “After being involved in months of discussion with the Chief Dental Officer, the ICB and academia, I am delighted to see progress on our commitment to build dental capacity in Suffolk.
This ten-year strategic project realised by the shared resolve of The University of Suffolk, in partnership with regional dentists, HEE, NHSE will start to address the oral health of our population.”
University of Suffolk Press Office