A PARLIAMENTARY candidate has expressed his frustration at the 'privatisation' of a Cockermouth NHS dentist - saying NHS dentistry has been left to 'wither on the vine' under the Conservative government.

In a letter to patients seen by the Times & Star, Goodwin and Associates, on Kirkgate, announced to patients they would no longer be providing NHS dental care, saying they have made the decision 'with a heavy heart'.

The letter said: "As you may be aware Goodwin and Associates Dental Practice have been committed to providing an NHS dental service for many years.

"However, due to recent changes to our NHS contract we feel it is no longer viable to offer you the care and services you have become accustomed to as an NHS patient and will be surrendering our contract at the end of April 2024."

The practice said it has been in talks with the NHS Dental Commissioners for a number of months to try and negotiate a revised contract, however no solution was reached.

The practice said it has 'come to this decision with a very heavy heart and are fully aware that it is a very difficult time for everyone'. It has introduced a range of dental membership plans to 'help people spread costs', as well as private 'pay-as-you-go' plans.

The dentist is the latest in a series of Cumberland-based surgeries to ditch the NHS contract.

Cumberland councillor and Labour parliamentary candidate for the Penrith and Solway constituency, Markus Campbell-Savours has said the 'NHS contract is broken' following the news, calling for urgent reform in NHS dentistry.

He said: "Yet again we see another NHS dentist move to seeing private patients only. Those families that can afford it will only pay more for the same service. Frustratingly this is not a new problem and for many years we have seen this pattern repeated across Cumbria and the rest of the country.

"The NHS contract is broken and is not delivered for our people, but for some reason the government have failed to grasp the nettle and have left NHS dentistry to wither on the vine.

"The next Labour government have committed to providing 700,000 extra appointments each year and a targeted recruitment fund to get NHS dentists into the communities that need them most.

"Importantly we have also committed to reforming the NHS contract so that everyone who needs an NHS dentist can see one.

"Reform of the services is coming, it’s just sad that it hasn’t come quick enough to save the practice in Cockermouth."

In September 2023, the Department of Health and Social care said that they were helping more patients to access NHS dentists, and that in 2022 they "made the most significant changes to the dentistry contract since 2006, by introducing a range of reforms to encourage more dentists to offer NHS services and make it easier to get an NHS dental appointment."