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West Suffolk oral patients face delays in treatment as hospital departments close

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds
West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds

Patients needing oral surgery or orthodontic treatment face a journey to Ipswich or Cambridge following closures at West Suffolk Hospital.

The closures mean people whose treatment began at the Bury St Edmunds hospital will at least have ongoing treatment delayed while other arrangements are made.

Anne Branch, an orthodontist who began at the hospital in 2004, when some patients were waiting six years for treatment, was told she was no longer needed from June 2.

She said: “Orthodontics has gone and oral surgery will go by the end of this month. These services have been there since the hospital opened on the present site.

“Most hospital orthodontic treatments average 24 months. Yes, there are many still in treatment. Have they been officially informed as to, if and where treatment is to be continued? No.

“I have a duty of care and will continue their treatment but WSH need to make the arrangements.”

Ms Branch says the hospital has de-commissioned the dental X-ray machine and is not replacing it. She added: “NHS England did not want WSH to lose dental services, but without the X-ray machine the present service can’t safely be provided.

“Patients needing a hospital referral for wisdom teeth, oral lumps, lesions, jaw joint problems, awkward extractions, including patients with complex medical problems, must now travel to Addenbrooke’s or Ipswich. Both units are already busy with extended waiting times.

“I do feel that patient choice for dental services has not been considered. People in the West Suffolk area are now worse off.”

She said many orthodontics patients are children and, as they often need oral surgery too, need a minimum of four appointments, so schools were already complaining about time out of education.

Ms Branch said it would also affect cardiology patients who must have their mouths checked because oral infections can severely affect recovery from heart procedures.

David Barter, interim head of commissioning for NHS England, Midlands and East, who commission the service from WSH, said: “NHS England is working with West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust to put a plan in place to ensure orthodontic patients can receive the care they need.

“Unfortunately, treatment for a small number of patients may be delayed. NHS England is committed to the safety of these patients and is making arrangements for patients’ ongoing care whilst longer-term plans for the service are put in place.”

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