NHS England insists it is working to try to bring dental services back to two villages, but one critic said he isn’t filled with much confidence.
In October last year, operations ceased at Coquetdale Dental Practice – which had centres in Rothbury and Hadston.
NHS England (Cumbria and the North East) said it was due to personal circumstances with the-then provider who was no longer in a position to deliver NHS dental services.
Patients using the Rothbury or Hadston (Broomhill Health Centre) practices had to access an alternative practice for NHS dental care.
At a county council meeting on Tuesday, Pauline Fletcher of NHS England gave an update.
She said: “There is capacity at alternative practises and we are confident that patients are getting access; unfortunately the area’s geography means patients are having to travel further.
“The Alnwick practice has entered into an agreement with a taxi service and negotiated reduced return travel rates for patients from Rothury or Hadston at about £12.
“In November, we advertised locally and nationally. We weren’t inundated, because contracts in rural areas are hard to attract, but we received three responses. We had one-to-ones set up last week but these were cancelled and we are trying to rearrange.”
She said that NHS England will be reviewing current access levels and is seeking patients’ views, including those at Amble, which currently can’t take on any more patients. She said: “This will help us identify viable options and ensure any potential contract is sustainable.”
But Rothbury county councillor Steven Bridgett said: “It doesn’t fill me with much confidence. I wonder if NHS England actually has any intention of putting out a contract to tender for a new service?
“You mention the £12 taxi. You’re saying a return trip from the top end of the Coquet Valley is only £12. Is this possible?
“I am concerned about Amble being part of the consultation. I don’t want to see responses in the consultation watered down by Amble, where they have provision.”
He accused NHS England of not understanding the rurality of the Coquet Valley and how hard it is for some residents to access services out of the area.
Druridge Bay county councillor Scott Dickinson called for quick progress and hoped a provider can be found.