The frustrations of people awaiting NHS dental treatments in two Norfolk towns look set to continue amid struggles to fill two new contracts for the areas.

NHS England and NHS Improvement have made contracts available for dentists in Fakenham and Thetford which aim to provide 8am until 8pm dental services seven days a week, 365 days a year.

The contracts are identical to those successfully taken on in King's Lynn, Norwich and Lowestoft this week.

However, while these contracts have been awarded, the hunt goes on for Fakenham and Thetford.

And with the new contracts due to start from July 1, there is a race against time to award these too.

A spokesman for NHS England and NHS Improvement, said: "We continue to work towards re-commissioning services in Thetford and Fakenham with the aim to have services available commencing summer 2022.

"These dental services are for adults and children, operating from 8am-8pm, 7 days a week for routine treatment, as well as urgent appointments.

"They will also provide dental care services to vulnerable people in the local area, including homeless people, asylum seekers and those that do not have access to financial support."

Nikki Winder, from the campaign group Toothless in England, however, said the contracts needed to be made far more attractive for them to be taken on.

She said: "The NHS has to recognise that dentists are still business at the end of the day and money talks.

"I also think in the areas the contracts aren't being taken on, the dentists may just not have the staff or the time to take on the work.

"There is a huge backlog of appointments missed during the pandemic and not enough people to do all the work. The procedures still cost the same however they are done, but dentists will always make more money from private work.

"The contracts need to be made more attractive for dentists to take them on.

"Some dentists these days are so busy they struggle to pick up the phone - so how can they be expected to take on more work for less money? They just are not being lured back."


The pandemic has posed a variety of challenges for people in all sorts of industries and dentistry is no different.

For months, dentists were greatly restricted in the work they could carry out which took huge chunks out of their revenue streams.

In an ideal world, dentists would be able to prioritise NHS procedures over private, but such is the nature of private health care they have equal responsibility to make sure their overheads are covered.

While they are playing catch up in terms of patients, they are also playing catch-up in terms of finances.

The fact of the matter is that unless NHS contracts close the financial gap between private and public care more, there will always be struggles to fill these contracts.

The government recently announced a £50m cash injection into the industry, but this will only go so far. If the backlog is ever to be cleared, NHS contracts need to be as financially competitive as they possibly can be - and that means investment.