MORE places at NHS dentists are to be made available in an effort to ease the South Lakes dental crisis.

After being alerted to the seriousness of the situation by MP Tim Farron, NHS bosses have agreed to channel urgent resources to dental practices in Kendal to enable them to provide desperately needed additional places on their patient registers.

However, Mr Farron warned that the extra funding was only a short term solution to the wider issue and changes to NHS strategy was required to effectively address the problem.

“With more and more people getting in touch to tell me their frustration and struggles of trying to find a dentist on the NHS, it’s becoming clear that the situation locally is getting worse and worse," said the Westmorland and Lonsdale MP.

“So, it’s good to finally see NHS England actually accepting that this is a serious problem and actually doing something to try and tackle it. We will hold their feet to the fire to make sure that they deliver on this.

“However, this can only be a short-term solution. For this problem to be properly dealt with, NHS England needs to revise its funding rules to ensure that NHS dentistry is an attractive career path.”

A report in the Westmorland Gazette highlighted the depth of the current problem, with little or no provision for dentists in the Kendal area to take on new NHS patients.

Several residents advised that after being told by their dentists that NHS treatment was no longer available, they had been unable to find a new dentist and some said they had been forced to register with dentists as far away as Appleby and Grange, which caused transport problems and additional stress.

But after Mr Farron contacted NHS England North, he received a letter from Graham Urwin, Director of Commissioning Operations for NHS England in Lancashire and South Cumbria, advising that they were taking steps to address the crisis.

"NHS England is presently working with existing providers to develop plans to invest non-recurrently in dental practices across Lancashire and South Cumbria, which will include the town of Kendal, where there are seven dental practices providing NHS Dental services," said Mr Urwin in the letter.

"NHS England Lancashire and South Cumbria intend to offer each of these practices the opportunity to increase their contracts so that they can see and treat additional patients.

"This investment will provide existing dental practices with more resources to take on patients widening access in the town."

However, Mr Urwin also explained in the letter that the longer term investment strategy would be governed by a revised 'Oral Heath Needs Assessment' for the Lancashire and South Cumbria area, a draft version of which will be available in February, 2019.

And Mr Farron vowed to keep a close eye on developments in respect of this strategy in the hope of ensuring there would be no recurrence of the present crisis.