Three of the county’s ministers have visited the new state-of-the-art dental facilities being developed at the University of Suffolk.

Tom Hunt, Ipswich MP, James Cartlidge, South Suffolk MP, and Peter Aldous, Waveney MP, had a preview tour of the University’s Centre for Dental Development, including new teaching rooms for BSc Dental Hygiene and Dental Therapy. The ministers also visited the dental practice rooms, which will be operated by the University of Suffolk Dental Community Interest Company (Dental CIC) housed in the same building.

The MPs were shown around by Helen Langton, the university’s vice-chancellor, who said, “This innovative partnership between the NHS and the University of Suffolk will help to develop a sustainable and multi-skilled dental care workforce for the future that will contribute to supporting the oral health needs of our population in Suffolk.

“It is a fantastic example of how universities can work with employers to develop skills and the future workforce alongside meeting the needs of their local community.”

Lorraine Mattis, CEO of the Dental CIC, said, “Addressing the NHS dental access issues requires a collective effort and we are committed to working in partnership with local practices and the NHS to address these challenges, fundamental to this is fully utilising the multi-skilled dental care workforce.

“Whilst we may not be able to solve this issue alone, we will make a real difference to those in greatest need and support the local community by delivering the best possible dental care and actively promoting oral health improvement.”

The first cohort of students in the dental hygiene and dental therapy course started their studies in February 2024.

The NHS dental practice is still being equipped and recruiting its new team and expects to offer its first appointments in the spring.

It will focus on the patients in Suffolk and Northeast Essex in greatest need and will eventually provide an additional 18,000 hours of NHS dental appointments a year.

When the service is up and running, it will treat patients referred by NHS 111, improving access to dental and oral health care for local people. It will also offer placements for the students on their degree programmes which is an important part of their learning.

Tom Hunt said, “I am in awe of what’s been achieved by the University of Suffolk working with the NHS. It will make a really powerful and tangible difference to the lives of my constituents.

“I have rarely seen such a timely intervention on an issue of such heightened public concern.”

Peter Aldous said, “Access to NHS dentistry has been a major challenge for my constituents for some time.

“It’s encouraging and exciting to see the University of Suffolk working with the NHS taking significant steps to address the problems, both in the short term by providing access to dental care for patients through the Dental CIC and, in the long term, by training dental professionals.”