NO FEWER than 10,000 NHS dental places will be up for grabs after the Welsh Assembly Government approved a new dental centre in Wrexham.
White Cross Dental Care Ltd, which is to open next Friday on Wrexham Technology Park, will be run by Integrated Dental Holdings.
It will take the number of NHS dental placements available in Wrexham from 51,000 to 61,000 - 47% of the county borough's population.
At its height, more than a decade ago, Wrexham had 58% of its population covered by an NHS dentist but Gaynor Edwards, Wrexham Local Health Board (LHB) Primary Care manager,saysthenew centreisastep in the right direction.
She said: 'It is unrealistic to expect 100% of the population to be registered with an NHS dentist. But this will make a real impact in redressing the balance.
'NHS dentistry in Wrexham has been in decline for years but, thanks to the good work of the dentists who stayed with us, we have been able to build back up without having to start from scratch.
'There are four dental posts and all will be filled by the time the surgery opens, so it will be running at full capacity.
'And while the surgery will also be
permitted to do private work, as long as it has a contract with us, it must safeguard its 10,000 NHS places.'
It is expected there will be a high demand from potential patients when White Cross opens, so Wrexham LHB has set up a dedicated hotline for people to register their details.
Those lucky enough to be selected for a place will get a return call.
The new registration system replaces the phasing method of signingup, whichwas criticisedlastyearafter an NHS dentist opened in Wrexham offering 3,000 places but only signed up 1,000 new patients every three months.
Geoff Lang, chief executive of the LHB, said: 'We welcome White Cross Dental Care to the area. The LHB is keen to ensure potential patients do not find themselves having to wait in long queues outside a practice, as has been the case in other parts of Wales.
'For this reason, we would encourage people to telephone their details throughto theLHB'sdedicatedDental Helpline on 01978 346547 to make the process of finding a dentist manageable, both in the interest of new patients and the practice.'