Toothless in Suffolk – activists take dental campaign national

Credit: Sas Astro
Credit: Sas Astro

A campaign pushing for ‘NHS dentistry for everyone’ has gone nationwide after activists were flooded with interest from different corners of the UK.

Toothless in Suffolk left the boundaries of East Anglia last week in a pledge to fight for better access wherever it is needed.

To mark the launch of Toothless in England, the group released six key demands aimed at the government and NHS England commissioners:

  1. An NHS dentist for everyone
  2. Reforms to the NHS dental contract that will encourage dentists to provide NHS treatments
  3. Revenue to cover the 50% of the population that are unfunded by the government
  4. NHS dental treatments to be free at the point of use
  5. People to be prioritised before shareholder dividend – no more privatisation
  6. An end to the two-tier system – hygienists, routine check-ups and preventative treatments must be a core NHS function.

‘Acute injustice’

Mark Jones, spokesperson for the campaign, said they provide resources for anybody interested in starting a regional hub.

‘The knock on effect of the campaign has been a rush of people getting in contact,’ he said.

‘We were planning to launch a national campaign in the new year. But things accelerated and there’s so much traction now.

‘The idea of going national was to assist those who may be interested so much as they’ve had enough and want to do something about it for their community.’

Now, regional groups are cropping up in areas such as Huntingdon. ‘We’re not rushing or forcing it – we’re just offering the platform to help,’ he added.

‘The injustice is so acute in terms of the stark reality of both where we are and the pain and discomfort experienced that is detrimental to people’s health.

‘It is time that we stood up and stood together.’

Charity aid

This comes as Dentaid visit Suffolk to offer emergency treatment for those in need. Visiting today and yesterday, the team – who mostly offer treatment for vulnerable or homeless communities – set up the mobile unit in a church car park in Bury St Edmunds.

Dentistry also hit Parliamentary headlines in recent weeks, with MPs raising concerns voiced by their constituents.

But Mark says little has been done to tackle the problems.

‘They acknowledged that there’s a problem. But within a matter of days, the Budget announcement was made and there was no mention of dentistry,’ he said.

‘It seems that what they say one day is completely different to what they do the next.

‘Hope for people is very distant. There is no hope out there at the moment.’

Not unreasonable

This week, Toothless in Suffolk had a second meeting with the NHS head of commissioning for the East of England.

‘When we met with them several weeks ago, we appealed for them to accelerate their procurement process and also announce the winning bidders for the eight lots that were out for tender in Norfolk and Suffolk,’ Mark added.

‘We asked for an update but we were told nothing.

‘We also appealed for them to use funds they have in clawback from practices who have not delivered their UDA targets to put out emergency mobile dental units. They haven’t done this.

‘I don’t think that anything we have asked for is unreasonable. We wonder whether they are actually living in the real world and we don’t think they are.’

For more information or to get involved email [email protected] or visit their Facebook and Twitter pages.

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