A DENTAL practice in Taunton has written to patients informing them it will no longer offer treatment on the NHS.

In the letter sent this week, Parkfield Dental Surgery owner Dr Mike Biccard said NHS appointments booked for the rest of this month with any resulting treatments will be honoured.

But from December 1 the practice in Parkfield Road will become totally private.

Dr Biccard's letter says: "For many years we have been fully committed to providing patients with the highest level of NHS patient care and continues to be a pleasure to treat all our patients.

"Over the last few months we have become increasingly busy and it has become apparent that we now need to make some changes to the way we practice given the demands on our time.

"Our main priority is to continuously strive to improve the dental care we can offer to our patients.

"We want to be able to spend more time with you and offer you a wider choice of treatments in a more relaxed environment and reduce the appointment waiting times."

Dr Biccard added "real terms funding cuts" and "recruitment and retention challenges" have put a strain on the practice providing routine NHS care.

He said: "After much deliberation, as of 1st December 2023 we will only be seeing patients on an independent basis.

Patients will have the choice of paying a monthly fee of £23.50 plus a one-off joining fee for examinations and certain treatments or 'pay as you go'.

Somerset has struggled for some time with a shortage of NHS dentists, with numerous practices refusing to take on new or existing NHS patients.

Matthew Jerreat, chairman of the NHS South West local dental network, was recently quoted in the County Gazette saying there is insufficient funding to provide NHS dental treatment for all Somerset residents.

Sukeina Kassam, NHS Somerset’s deputy director of primary care, said: “We understand that finding a dentist can be challenging, and dental surgeries may not always have the capacity to accept new NHS patients.

“We are actively collaborating with local providers to address the shortage of NHS dental services in the region.

"Our efforts include implementing initiatives to increase the availability of dental appointments and launching preventive care programs to support patients in maintaining their oral health.

“We are also exploring opportunities to commission additional NHS services from dental practices that have the capacity to provide them."