COLCHESTER patients are set to benefit from thousands of extra NHS dental appointments… but they’ll have to travel to another county to see a dentist.

A new dentistry contract will provide an additional 18,000 hours of appointments each year to Suffolk and north east Essex residents, but they will only be available at a facility located within the University of Suffolk in Ipswich.

The £2.2million contract has been awarded to the University of Suffolk Dental Community Interest Company.

The new service is expected to launch this winter and aims to address the current lack of availability for NHS dentistry in north Essex.

Gazette: Location - the appointments will be available at the University of Suffolk's James Hehir Building in IpswichLocation - the appointments will be available at the University of Suffolk's James Hehir Building in Ipswich (Image: Google)

Its location provides cause for concern with a lack of free parking in the Ipswich waterfront area, leaving patients needing to pay for parking in nearby car parks in addition to the cost of making the 20-mile journey.

The awarding of the new contract comes as a damning new report found people in the UK have been forced to pull their own teeth out at home because they cannot access or afford an NHS dentist.

The Health and Social Care Committee said there was evidence of pain and distress which is “totally unacceptable in the 21st century”.

Labour parliamentary candidate for Colchester Pam Cox warned the additional hours in Ipswich “won’t help ease the pressures” on the city’s dentists.

Gazette: Labour candidate - Pam CoxLabour candidate - Pam Cox (Image: Newsquest)

She said: “Many people in Colchester find it really hard to get an appointment when they need one.

“This is made worse by the fact fewer dentists are taking on NHS patients.”

The NHS website said three practices in Colchester were accepting adult NHS patients when checked yesterday.

When contacted by the Gazette, two of the practices said they had lengthy waiting lists. The first said it would take until March next year to be seen while the second refused to commit to a date.

The third dentist surgery had not responded at the time of publication.

Lizzie Mappleback, who is the associate director of strategic change for NHS Suffolk and North East Essex, admitted “there is no quick fix” to the current dental crisis.

She added: “We are working to expand the service as quickly as possible, while ensuring the highest standards of patient safety.

“We ask the public to please bear with us as we establish this new NHS dental provision.”