I have been informed that by Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB) that effective immediately the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust will no longer accept dental referrals from GPs due to “major capacity issues” and a vacant consultant post which they are struggling to fill.

This will hopefully only impact a small number of people who need a hospital setting for dental work, but with no available NHS dentist placements in the district, access to dental treatment is going in completely the wrong direction.

The Integrated Care Board (ICB) say:

“UHMBT had reported major capacity issues within the speciality. The Trust continues to attempt to recruit to the vacant consultant post but has been unsuccessful. It requested a suspension or pause be permitted to cease referrals into the service from external sources, such as GDPs and GPs, while continuing to provide services to internal trust referrals and existing patients.

A review of the pathways and services was undertaken across Lancashire Teaching Hospital and East Lancashire Hospitals which highlighted neither trust receives external referrals. In light of this it was agreed a pause in referrals from external sources be approved for UHMBT.

UHMB has ensured patients currently under treatment, on the waiting list or referred from other internal specialities will receive treatment from the trust.  

A restorative managed clinical network is to be convened to review in detail the services across the ICB, with a view to developing a greater collaborative approach across the acute providers, to improve and develop the patient pathways and develop a more sustainable and less fragile service.

All key local GDP and GP providers have been notified of the suspension and the potential impacts upon future referrals.

Any patients who have an urgent care requirement should call the local dental helpline 0300 1234 010, (charged at local rate) can provide advice, support and an appointment where required.  

We thank you in advance for support and understanding during this time.”

This is a service that is typically used by high priority patient groups, such as those with head and neck cancer, developmental defects including cleft lip/palate or hypodontia, or severe dentoalveolar trauma, who require advanced dental care or dental care carried out in a hospital setting.

It is unacceptable that as a result of years of successive Conservative governments under-resourcing NHS dentistry – in particular training of new dentists – high priority patients are now being left in the lurch.

I have shared my sincere concerns about this matter with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, encouraging her to match Labour’s ambition to invest in a new generation of dentists, create 700,000 more urgent dental appointments and plug the gaping holes in NHS dentistry. You can see my letter below.

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