Progress on efforts for new dental service, but concerns remain

Coun Scott Dickinson, ward member for Druridge Bay.Coun Scott Dickinson, ward member for Druridge Bay.
Coun Scott Dickinson, ward member for Druridge Bay.
A Northumberland councillor remains concerned his community will be left without dental services, as the search for a new contract is launched again.

A second procurement process for a new dental service for Rothbury and the Amble/Hadston area is now under way, with a closing date of March 4, after there was a lack of successful bidders the first time round.

As previously reported, this means a six-month delay as the new service, originally planned to start in June this year, will now not be in place until December if a recommended bidder is selected in May.

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But while Coun Scott Dickinson, ward member for Druridge Bay, is ‘really pleased to see this moving forward’, he remains concerned about Hadston being described as an ‘attachment’.

“I am worried a provider will deem it to be appropriate to deliver from Amble and not utilise what we have in the village nor accommodate the needs of the community,” he said.

“I appreciate Amble requires more resource too, given the flood of homes since the removal of the Northumberland Plan and a bit of a free-for-all has taken place.

“But they must remember this started with the removal in Rothbury and Hadston. Hundreds of people responded and we held major feedback public events in Hadston – these people need to be accommodated.”

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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.

At Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing committee last November, it was 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 in January revealed that there were no successful bidders despite ‘a small number’ of bids being received, which is why NHS England went back out to tender earlier this month.

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At the time, the organisation said: ‘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