A new dental practice has opened its doors in Bangor, completing the first stage of an ambitious plan to help tackle a chronic shortage of NHS dentists across North Wales.
As well as providing much needed NHS dental services to thousands of local patients each year, the exciting new venture on the city’s High Street will soon play a leading role in training dental professionals across the region.
Located in the spacious Ty Glyder building, which has undergone an £1.6m refurbishment, the Bangor Dental Academy forms part of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’s ambitious efforts to attract, train and retain more dental professionals, in response to a UK wide shortage.
Once fully staffed, the academy’s recently opened ground floor dental practice will provide eight clinics, replacing the four that were lost when dental practices in Bangor and Menai Bridge closed in recent years.
The second floor of the building boasts state-of-the-art clinical and conferencing facilities that will be used to train and upskill dental professionals from across North Wales when it opens in early 2023. By mid-2023, Community Dental Service clinics will be introduced on the third floor, increasing the number of patients that can be seen, as well as the quality of care provided.
The practice is owned by dentists Ravi Singh and Darren King, who also run dental practices and oral surgery clinics across Greater Manchester. They were inspired to invest in the Bangor based venture after being impressed with the Health Board’s vision.
They said: “This dental practice is the culmination of a lot of hard work. Starting with the Health Board, which had the vision and the courage to commission a new way of providing much needed NHS dentistry to the local population and continuing with our team who have made real our vision.
“We have a history of working in innovative ways and this project fits in with our previous experiences perfectly. The opportunity to work with Bangor University and the local NHS team is an exciting one, which will deliver significant benefits for the local population.”
In a sign of the huge demand for new NHS dental services, the practice received 8,000 enquiries within three weeks of opening patient registration. Registration has since been paused while recruitment is completed. Those who have already registered an interest will be contacted in due course.
“Like any new service, it will take us time to recruit, settle in and start seeing patients, but we hope to soon be up to full strength,” explained Ravi.
“We’re encouraged that the concept of providing pragmatic, good quality, hands on training, together with the theoretical background and links to education providers is already proving to make a difference in terms of our recruitment. Currently, dental professionals who want to develop their skills would need to leave North Wales to do this. We hope that through this arrangement everybody wins. NHS patients will receive a higher grade of care and dentists are getting training which is more pragmatic.”
Mr Colin Price from Bangor was among the first patients to be seen in the new practice. He said:
“I’m very pleased to see the Bangor Dental Academy established as I’ve been without an NHS dentist for 18 months. It’s great that I will now have somewhere within walking distance of where I live.”
The Dental Academy is part of Betsi Health Board’s wider plans to improve access to dentistry and shorten waiting times. The Health Board is also commissioning additional NHS dental services across North Wales, as well as introducing innovative and flexible contractual arrangements to attract new dentists to work in the area.
Peter Greensmith, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’s Assistant Director for the North Wales Dental Service, said:
“This is a wonderful facility and the ability to work with Welsh Government, Health Education and Improvement Wales, Cardiff Dental School and Bangor University as well as other stakeholders means that we can explore further options to attract dental staff to the area. We are also able to offer an innovative working environment that enables them to practice dentistry while upskilling and delivering specialist care in a community setting.
“While there is no silver bullet to tackle the immediate access issues that many people continue to face here in North Wales and across the UK, we’re continuing to do all we can, working alongside our partners, to recruit, train and upskill NHS dental professionals, so people across the region have better access to dental care close to their homes.”
For information on how to access NHS dental services and manage common dental problems, please visit the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board website at: https://bcuhb.nhs.wales/services/where-do-i-go1/dental/