Norfolk woman drives to Kent for dentist as she can't get local practice
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A wildlife campaigner has described having to drive more than three hours before staying overnight for dental appointments - after not being able to find a practice in north Norfolk for 10 years.
Maggie Wilcox, who lives in Overstrand, said: "We moved here from Kent in 2011 and tried to find a dentist but we couldn't, so we continued to go to the dentist in Kent."
The 205-mile journey to Broadstairs takes 3.5 hours.
"We'd have to stay the night, but my husband, he's a self-employed plumber, would miss out on two days of work."
She said the journeys were a source of frustration and a "considerable expense".
Her dentist retired in the summer and moved to Wales, so Ms Wilcox started ringing around local practices again, only to be told not only were they not taking on patients but did not even have waiting lists.
It was the same for private dentists, Ms Wilcox said.
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Fortunately, a fortnight ago, she found a dentist in Stalham, and even though the journey is not as demanding as the trip to Kent, it is "still a bit of a hike" from Overstrand.
"I've heard of other people who have moved here and are still travelling to their old dentist in the midlands or Sussex or Surrey.
"It's a hot topic of conversation," she added.
According to figures from NHS England, published in March 2019, the number of dentists providing NHS services in north Norfolk in 2018/19 was 67, or 39 dentists per 100,000 people.
This was less than the national average, of 44 dentists per 100,000 people, and also below other parts of Norfolk except the west of the county.
In August, NHS England invited tenders for six new practices across Norfolk and Waveney including two surgeries in King's Lynn, one in Norwich and one each in Fakenham, Thetford and Lowestoft.
The new services are expected to start on July 1, 2022.
Anyone needing urgent dental care and is not registered at a dental practice or needs to see a dentist out of hours should call NHS 111.
If after contacting several dental surgeries someone cannot find a dentist accepting NHS patients, call NHS England's Customer Contact Centre on 0300 311 2233.