Loss of last NHS dentist a real pain for Appleby

Date: Friday 20th October 2017
Ernie Brabbins
Ernie Brabbins

THE last NHS dentist in Appleby will close at the end of December, leaving few in the town smiling.

The Appleby Dental Practice service in the medical centre in Chapel Street has been provided by the nationwide IDH Group under the MyDentist brand.

The practice has just received a glowing report from the Care Quality Commission, which found it to be safe, effective, caring, responsive and well led, but it had stopped accepting new patients. The dentist is moving to Kirkby Lonsdale.

Appleby residents now face a major scramble to find free NHS provision elsewhere. The town is served by two other dentists, but both are private.

However, all three practices have contracts to provide NHS services for children, although the number of treatments they can provide is strictly controlled by NHS England. It means the two remaining practices cannot simply pick up the child patients from the practice that is closing.

Kirkby Stephen has only one dental practice but it is not taking on adult NHS patients, although it does have space for children.

A number of dental practices in Penrith do not take on NHS patients, and NHS England is now looking into the issue.

The Leeds-based public relations agency acting for IDH Group said the Appleby practice had failed to attract new dentists to the town and had faced mounting running costs to provide locum cover to meet its obligations.

Patient Ernie Brabbins, aged 76, of Appleby, found out about the closure during a routine visit on Monday. He said: “This is going to have a massive impact on Appleby residents, especially if they can’t get into a private practice or find that the NHS dentists are all fully subscribed.”

He said a friend had got into an NHS dentist at Brampton but it was an 80-mile round trip — impossible for those without transport.

Mr. Brabbins said the closure of the last NHS dentist in Appleby was another worrying trend coming on the heels of the loss of Edenside care home and uncertainty over bus services.

Andy Connell, the town mayor, said the closure of the dental practice had come as a “complete surprise” but he would look into it. “If we get into a situation of not having any NHS provision in Appleby it underlines how vital it is that we have adequately used transport between Appleby and Penrith,” said Mr. Connell.

MyDentist said it would be writing to all patients next week to inform them of the closure. The company said: “This decision has not been taken lightly. It is a result of increased running costs and difficulties attracting dentists to the area, which has prevented us from providing NHS dental services sustainably.

“Patients registered at the practice with open courses of treatment will have their dental care completed before 29th December.

“Alternative practices accepting NHS patients in the area can be found on the NHS Choices website www.nhs.uk or by calling the NHS helpline on 111.”

An NHS spokeman said: “NHS England is currently in discussions with other NHS providers to explore options to increase capacity in the short term prior to going out to tender with a view to securing a longer term solution. 

“A letter will be sent out to patients in advance of the practice closing to confirm details of the NHS provision available. In the meantime, patients should continue to access the Appleby Dental Practice for NHS dental care.”