UK (University of East Anglia) University and MPs join forces to welcome Government commitment to increasing dentistry provision

The University of East Anglia (UEA), partners and MPs from across the county have welcomed the commitment to dentistry provision in the Government’s Long Term NHS Workforce Plan, launched today (Friday 30 June).

The plan commits to increasing the number of training places for dental therapy and hygiene professionals by 28% by 2028/29.

UEA has been working with MPs to push for improved dental services in the region, including seeking a review of undergraduate training which could secure more local training opportunities.

The Norwich Dental Development Centre, which is now in place to bring together education and training needs for the region’s dentists, is the first step towards launching a bid for an undergraduate School of Dentistry at UEA when the Government reopens the national bidding process for training places. It brings together local partners, including the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Recent research has shown that no dental practices in Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire or North Northamptonshire were accepting new adult NHS patients last year (cites BBC). There is a shortage of dentists across the East of England.

Prof David Maguire, Vice-Chancellor at the University of East Anglia, said:

“We welcome the launch of the Government’s new Long Term NHS Workforce Plan and its commitment to training more dentists.

“While this is good news, we would still urge the Government to accelerate its plans to offer additional undergraduate dentistry training to help secure the future supply of dentists and dental practitioners which the East of England so desperately needs.

“The shortage of NHS dentist availability in the East of England has been widely reported and we have been working with partners and our local MPs for some time to look at how we can play a part in addressing that challenge by training dentists here at UEA.

“We have established a Dental Development Centre, working closely with partners on the Norwich Research Park, including our regional NHS trust partners. This is a first step to help develop more dentistry skills across the region, supporting recruitment and retention.

Professor Erika Denton, Medical Director at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said:

“We have worked collaboratively with UEA for more than 20 years developing successive generations of skilled health professionals, such as doctors, nurses, midwives and allied health professionals.

“We fully support UEA’s Dental Development Centre which will bring benefits for our local population and complement the high-quality teaching and education programmes being delivered by the university and the hospital.”

Jerome Mayhew, MP for Broadland, said:

“Since I was elected, I have campaigned for better access to dental treatment in Broadland. I am therefore glad that the Government has responded, and I welcome the Government’s dental strategy.

“Any long-term solution to improving access to dentistry in Norfolk will have to include the addition of dental training places. I will continue to work with the University of East Anglia to establish a dental development centre and campaign for a full dental training school.”

Rt Hon Chloe Smith, MP for Norwich North, said:

“I strongly support the establishment of the Norwich Dental Development Centre at the UEA.

“From my own constituency dental survey, I know how hard it is for residents to find a dentist locally, and I’m concerned that NHS appointments for children are in decline.  I have also been a longstanding campaigner for more dentist and doctor appointments to go with new homes being built in our area.

“As a result, I have been working with the UEA for some time to develop the possibility of a dental training facility, which will bring more dentists to Norwich and Norfolk.  I want this to make sure there’s the right care for today’s and tomorrow’s residents.”

Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South, said:

“I have been working tirelessly to address the local dental care crisis for several years, both within and outside of Parliament. Recently, I brought the concerns of my constituents to the attention of Rishi Sunak during Prime Minister’s Questions.

“It is unacceptable that dentistry remains severely underfunded, and it’s the only area of the English health service that has seen its budget decline since the Conservatives took power in 2010. However, the evidence suggests that if we can encourage people to train as dentists in Norwich, they are more likely to remain in the area and work here. That’s why I support UEA’s Norwich Dental Development Centre initiative and its ultimate aim of establishing a School of Dentistry at the University.”

George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk, said:

“Dental health is a crucial part of NHS services and it is vital that EVERYONE can access the support they need. That’s why I have been campaigning so actively for improved dental services here in our region, and why I am delighted UEA will be home to a new Dental Development Centre – a positive step that will boost local dentistry skills, support recruitment and improve retention.

“I remain committed to working with local partners and the Government as we look to secure additional improvements, including the further expansion of dental skills training and provision here in the East.”

Richard Bacon, MP for South Norfolk, said:

“This is good news. For a long time, my parliamentary colleagues and I have been campaigning for access to more dentists in Norfolk – and providing options for dental education locally is a very important part of the answer.

“The UEA’s decision to establish a Dental Development Centre is a very important step in the right direction and I congratulate the university on making this commitment. I will be looking to ministers to accelerate their plans so that we can see a full dental school in Norfolk as soon as possible”.

Rt. Hon. Sir Brandon Lewis CBE, MP for Great Yarmouth, said:

“We know all that many residents are experiencing difficulty in accessing dental services in Norfolk, with significant health consequences. I fully support the efforts by UEA to offer dental education as one of the measures required to expand capacity.”

Rt. Hon. Elizabeth Truss, MP for South West Norfolk, said:

“Access to good dentistry is crucial. I know from the number of letters I receive complaining about the lack of available dental services in my constituency postbag, how strongly local people in Norfolk feel about the issue.

“Part of the long-term solution would be for a dental training school to be established in the East of England and the UEA strikes me as the obvious place for it to be sited.”

James Wild, MP for North West Norfolk, said:

“I’m pleased thousands of appointments have been provided at the new dental practice in Lynn that I campaigned for since it opened last summer but more provision is needed – particularly for emergency care. I continue to urge the NHS to take further steps to improve access to dentists in West Norfolk to meet the demand locally.

“A long-term sustainable answer to the shortage of dentists is to train more in our area. I welcome the news that UEA is starting the Norwich Dental Development Centre.  I will continue to work with other local MPs to press for UEA to be allowed to offer dentistry undergraduate courses at the earliest opportunity and explore options for training of dental therapists and other roles locally.”

The Norwich Dental Development Centre at UEA will support the Health Education England Advancing Dental Care review by:

  • Supporting the development of flexible models of Dental Specialty training to support workforce retention and career progression, bringing together partners within the region.

  • Providing opportunities for academic training and research across the Norwich Research Park

  • Bringing together education and training to meet the needs of the regional workforce

  • Supporting the advancement of clinical practice in oral healthcare

  • Broadening knowledge of dental health presentation in primary and secondary care through interprofessional training across the UEA’s portfolio of medical and allied health professions programmes.

Since the early 1990s, UEA has developed teaching provision for Medicine, Nursing and Allied Health Professionals. Norwich Medical School is rated third in the UK for preparing its graduates for practice after graduation (General Medical Council preparedness indicator scores 2022).

Notably, with strong links to the Norwich Research Park and NHS Trust Partners, the recent REF2021 results confirmed that 91% of the University’s research is world leading and the University was ranked 20th; it ranked first in Agriculture, Food/Nutrition and Veterinary Science with its strong base of food and nutrition translational research.  UEA submitted a bid to HEE in 2005 to establish a new dental school in the region, which demonstrated its feasibility and was applauded, but it was not selected at that time in favour of other regions with greater demand.  Should there be a call for increased capacity for dental places nationally or within the region, UEA feel well placed to offer this opportunity regionally.