NHS England launches a new “urgent dental care service” at Spalding’s Johnson Community Hospital on Saturday.
The step follows the closure of 1A Dental at the hospital on August 31 and NHS England’s failure to deliver its promised “caretaker” replacement service from September 1.
The urgent care service is due to run until the end of March but there will be no routine check-ups or treatments for its NHS patients.
NHS England’s handling of dental services at the hospital is under fire from patients and the patient watchdog, Healthwatch Lincolnshire.
Healthwatch chief executive officer Sarah Fletcher said the watchdog had received 90 calls, an unprecedented number, from patients who were previously treated by 1A Dental.
She said: “Communications to patients about the changes to 1A Dental services were just not good enough.
“On behalf of patients we have raised a number of concerns with NHS England and as a result they have altered the second patient letters to be sent out and agreed to meet with us at the end of October.
“When we meet with NHS England we will not only be discussing the way in which NHS England have dealt with the 1A Dental closure but also will be asking about the lack of NHS dentists in Lincolnshire and asking what is being done to rectify this.”
Di Pegg, head of primary care for NHS England Lincolnshire, said: “NHS England (Central Midlands) is committed to ensuring patients have access to NHS dental services in Spalding.
“We have commissioned urgent dental care sessions to be delivered from the dental surgery at Johnson Community Hospital and at selected local dental practices whilst longer-term solutions are considered.
“We will be providing an update to all former patients of 1A Dental regarding the urgent dental care arrangements by letter very shortly.”
NHS England says it has kept patients informed. A letter sent to 1A Dental’s former patients in September explains there were bids for the caretaker dental service but “unfortunately the bids we received did not meet the criteria that enabled us to award the contract”.
The letter continued: “In these circumstances, we have no alternative but to close the practice.”
The urgent care service will be provided by Community Dental Services CIC.
NHS England says the service will consist of “a dental nurse triage service supported by clinical treatment sessions at the Johnson Community Hospital dental surgery and urgent dental care sessions with local providers”.
They say: “All patients with an urgent dental care need will be assessed by a dental nurse and if they require urgent treatment will be offered an appointment within the urgent dental care sessions.”
NHS England say South Holland patients can access the service by calling NHS 111 (freephone); by searching online via the NHS Choices website (www.nhs.uk) or by calling Community Dental Services CIC on 0333 207 5991.
In July, 1A Dental said ongoing running costs had “prevented the practice from operating sustainably”.
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