Further six-month delay for return of dental services, health bosses warn

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A lack of successful bidders means a further six-month delay for a new dental contract following the loss of services in two Northumberland villages.

While a new dental service for Rothbury and the Amble/Hadston area was planned to start in June this year, it will likely now not be in place until the end of 2019.

In October 2017, NHS England (Cumbria and the North East) announced that operations were to cease at Coquetdale Dental Practice, which had centres in Rothbury and Hadston.

Due to personal circumstances, Simon Francis, who ran the surgeries, was no longer in a position to continue to deliver NHS dental services and therefore his contract ended.

An update to the November meeting of Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing committee reported that a seven-year contract, with the option to extend for three years, had been approved by NHS England and the tender process had subsequently closed.

This was to be a split site with one practice in Rothbury and one in the Hadston/Amble area. Due to concerns about offering a viable contract, the new dental service would have an activity target of double what it was before.

However, an update to next Tuesday’s (January 8) meeting of the committee has revealed that there were no successful bidders despite ‘a small number’ of bids being received.

A briefing note for councillors explains: ‘The bids were independently evaluated against specific criteria (which is published in an evaluation criteria handbook) to ensure that bidders/organisations have the necessary clinical and financial capacity to deliver sustainable dental services under the contract and also that they have proposed to deliver services from suitable premises.

‘Unfortunately, we have not been able to recommend a successful bidder as the bids received were non-compliant against one or more of the published criteria. Bidders have been informed of this in writing and have received detailed feedback on their bids.’

It adds that NHS England’s intention is ‘to go back out to tender for dental services in Rothbury and Hadston/Amble as soon as possible’.

The document continues: ‘We had initially planned for a new dental service to commence in June 2019, however, regrettably, due to having to re-tender, there is likely to be a delay of approximately six months, subject to obtaining a successful bid.

‘While we appreciate that this delay is less than ideal, it is important that we are able to secure the right services for the local population and we would offer our reassurance that we remain committed to securing these services as promptly as possible.’

There is capacity at dental practices in Alnwick, Morpeth and Ashington for patients requiring either urgent or routine NHS dental care, although health bosses appreciate this does involve travel for patients.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service