By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
Five new dental practices will be created across Kent to help meet an increase in demand due to a backlog of appointments caused by the pandemic – including one in Thanet.
NHS England has commissioned four centres in Dartford, Dover, Faversham and Sevenoaks, and another is in the process of being set up in Minster.
Each NHS practice is equivalent to the hiring of three full-time dentists.
This comes as Kent patients have been experiencing longer waiting times for routine dental care, such as check-ups. It is hoped the new surgeries will alleviate some of this pressure.
Kent County Council’s (KCC) Health and Scrutiny Committee will review the recommendations during a hybrid meeting in Sessions House, County Hall, Maidstone, next week.
A report presented to the panel of 17 councillors by the Kent NHS says: “Whilst dental services are operational, the priority remains focused on patients who require access to urgent care, patients at higher risk of oral disease and patients with outstanding treatments that cannot be delayed.”
Each new contract will offer a set number of appointments to patients in urgent need and who do not have a regular dentist.
The hubs will also provide a number of hours outside normal working hours to provide more choice to patients.
Dental provision will also increase in Canterbury, Swale, Sittingbourne and Tonbridge by the equivalent of one full-time NHS dentist.
Meanwhile, an NHS dental practice in Sandwich will expand by the equivalent of two full-time dentists.
Full timescales for the proposed developments have yet to be made publicly available. The chosen sites are also yet to be announced.
Consultations have been carried out by telephone since UK dental practices were required to close for face-to-face care on March 25 last year.
Since then, practices have been told to prioritise in-person care and urgent dental provision.
Appointments have historically taken place every six months, however they can also vary from three to 24 months depending on a person’s oral health.
In an NHS report published on Wednesday, a spokesman said: “We understand that this is a confusing time for members of the public trying to access dental care.
“Practices are communicating with their regular patients to keep them informed of services available from their practice and what they need to do to access these.”
KCC members will debate the progress at a hybrid meeting on July 21 from 10am.
Residents can access their dentist using the Kent helpline on 0300 123 4412 or search online via https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-dentist