Published: 11:00, 01 February 2018
As many as 15,000 people are set to be left without dental care today as Canterbury’s oldest practice pulls the plug on its NHS contract after 70 years.
Bradley & Partners in St Peter’s Lane has revealed it can no longer afford to offer the subsidised service, branding the NHS “unrecognisable” from the institution it signed up to in 1948.
Principal dentist Dr Nadim Safdar - who is being investigated by NHS England over fraud allegations - says bureaucracy from the health service has forced it “to pursue unrealistic NHS imposed targets which are excessively punitive if not met”.
His practice will continue to see patients privately or as part of a monthly dental plan, but he says its withdrawal from the NHS service will affect up to 15,000 patients in and around Canterbury.
“We do not want to provide a second-rate service to our NHS patients,” said Dr Safdar. “We are committed to offering all of our patients the best possible care that modern dentistry can offer.
“We cannot compromise on this commitment. For several years we have not been able to cover the cost of providing NHS dentistry from what the NHS pays us.
“As a result, we have been privately subsidising the care we provide to our NHS patients. Regrettably, such a subsidy is no longer tenable.
“Where possible we have asked former NHS patients to sign up to Denplan or to return to us privately.
“Although we have kept our prices as low as possible we are very much aware that some people will find it unaffordable.”
Dr Safdar, who bought the practice in 2014, fears those most affected will be the elderly and children so has set up a hardship clinic to treat those in great dental need free of charge.
“Despite being pensioners the elderly still have to pay NHS dental charges,” he said. “Another group that will be disproportionately affected will be children, particularly those with ongoing dental problems.
“We understand the desperation felt by our patients and feel compelled to do whatever we can. Consequently, to help those patients let down by the NHS, and to ease the NHS dental crisis we are setting up a Dental Hardship Clinic at Bradley and Partners.
“The clinic will be paid for by me in conjunction with my associate dentists, who will offer their services to the hardship clinic for free.
“My colleagues and I unanimously agreed that although we were unable to remain within the NHS setting up the Hardship Clinic was the right thing to do.
“It is the first of its kind and is designed to deal with urgent dental problems. Everybody is eligible and no one’s paperwork will be checked for status.
“If you are in desperate dental need, it is very obvious.”
The investigation into Dr Safdar is ongoing, but he insists his decision to end the NHS contract is not connected to the probe.
He continues to protest his innocence.
NHS England, which commissions dental care across the country, has been contacted for a comment.
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