DENTAL services for children in South Tyneside have been praised after waiting times were cut from three years to just over four months.
Health chiefs aim to continue this progress by awarding a new, five-year £662,000 contract, which will see 1,110 patients assessed and a further 560 treated every year.
South Tyneside councillors were told yesterday that this contract had been awarded to The Dean Road Dental Practice, South Shields.
In 2009, youngsters in the borough had to wait 158 weeks for orthodontic treatment such as braces – nearly twice as long as those in Sunderland.
A review of the service by South Tyneside Primary Care Trust (PCT) led to a recommendation that more specialist dentists should be appointed.
However, despite delays over the awarding of the contract, because of a challenge from an unsuccessful bidder, the Community Dental Service (CDS) managed to cut waiting times.
Health bosses were informed the CDS would be ending their involvement this month, but yesterday’s meeting of South Tyneside Council’s children and young people and independent and health lives select committee was told of the new arrangement.
Trish Goss, dental contract manager from the North East Primary Care Services Agency, which works on behalf of the PCT, said: “I am delighted that we do now have a new contract in place and it is a very positive move for South Tyneside.
“Hopefully it will bring waiting times down even further.”
During 2009, South Shields MP David Miliband called for urgent action to be taken, while Coun Ernest Gibson, chairman of the committee called the situation ‘worrying’.
But yesterday Coun Gibson said he was delighted with the improvements that have been made.
He said: “We have fought for this for a number of years, we have written to our MPs and raised the issue in parliament.
“We had people travelling from our borough to places like Blyth and Whitley Bay for treatment. This is brilliant news and I can only thank you for bringing this report to the committee.”