The opening of an urgent dental treatment centre in Darlington after a long-running campaign has been welcomed.  

The NHS has opened the facility at the Firthmoor Community Centre to provide extra appointments for patients in the town, as part of plans to ease the pressures on overstretched dentists. 

Waiting lists have been growing and the Chair of the British Dental Association has described the regional service as "hanging by a thread".

Conservative Peter Gibson, who is standing to be re-elected as the town's MP at next month's election, said earlier this year his constituency office had received enquiries from almost 200 residents who have been unable to access NHS dentistry services.(Image: The Northern Echo)

Thousands of Darlington residents are unable to get a dentist appointment due to huge backlogs and recruitment issues.

People are reportedly fitting their own fillings and extracting their own teeth without anaesthetic or professional training. 

Speaking at the weekend, Mr Gibson said: "I can tell you this is a fantastic day after a tireless campaign battling with the bureaucracy of the NHS commissioners in the North East we are finally there and the urgent dental treatment centre here is opening.

"Now this has been a Battle Royal with the NHS to get them to provide the long-awaited provisions that we needed is we Darlington, following the surgery that was at this site that closed over a year ago.

"This emergency dental treatment centre will be able to provide here in Darlington, for Darlington residents, that urgent treatment that presently people have to travel all the way to Durham to get.

"It's also part of a longer-term plan that the NHS are commissioning additional dental provision here in Darlington, so there’s a procurement exercise ongoing to provide additional facilities here in the Eastbourne ward."

He added: "Now please don’t always start at once because this urgent treatment centre is available presently only by accessing NHS dentistry through the 111 service.

"Two full-time dentists are working on this site and are available to provide to Darlington residents the urgent treatment that they need."

The following information has been provided by the North East NHS Integrated Care Board. 

Is this a new dental practice for Darlington?

No, this is not a new traditional dental practice. Recognising the challenges people face accessing NHS dentists, it is a temporary, urgent dental access centre that is being put in place while the NHS completes a full procurement exercise to establish new, permanent general dental provision in the Eastbourne ward of Darlington from January 2025. The aim is to have the temporary centre open in June 2024.

I used to be a patient at Firthmoor, how can I get an appointment?

The urgent dental access centre that is scheduled to be available in June in Firthmoor is for urgent appointments accessed via controlled referral routes now being developed which will include NHS111. The urgent centre will not be open for general, day to day routine appointments or walk in appointments.

Patients with an urgent need who aren't already receiving treatment at a dental practice should call NHS 111 for urgent support and they will be signposted to the service that is most appropriate to their needs, which might be the urgent access centre in Darlington when it opens in June.

Can I make an appointment directly to see the dentist?

Patients can't make an appointment directly with the urgent access centre.  NHS 111 will be able to make appointments at the centre, where there is a clinical need.

Does the dentist at Firthmoor have access to my old dental records?

This is a new service delivering urgent dental care and as such they will not have access to previous dental records.

It's been two years since I was last seen by a dentist, can I have a check up? How long before I have to wait to get a check up?

If you need to see a dentist for a routine check up, you can contact local dentists directly, who may be able to see you subject to routine appointment availability For urgent dental appointments, you can telephone any general dental practice.  If they are unable to offer an appointment because their NHS urgent access slots have already been taken up, you should visit  or call 111.

How will patients access the urgent dental access centre?

Patients who aren't already accessing ongoing treatment from their dentist and/or can't secure urgent care access via a local dental practice should call NHS 111 for urgent dental support and they will be signposted to the most appropriate service for their needs which could include the Darlington Urgent dental access centre.

Why is the temporary centre being opened?

The urgent dental access centre in Darlington will help provide extra urgent care capacity and access to appointments while the NHS carries out a procurement exercise for a permanent, general dental service for the area.

You've known about issues with NHS dentistry for some time now, why is it taking so long to put things in place?

Since the pandemic, dental services have faced massive challenges in meeting the increasing and more complex needs of our patients.

The ICB took on responsibility from NHS England for the commissioning on dental services in April 2023.

In July 2023, the ICB committed £3 million as part of its Primary Care Dental Access Recovery Plan. This has included investment in dental practices to provide extra clinical treatment sessions and recruiting staff to support dental triage through the NHS 111 phone service. 

The ICB has continued to work hard to address issues with dentistry throughout the 2023/24 financial year and beyond. Our Phase One plan to increase capacity includes incentives for practices that can demonstrate how they will improve access for patients and address health inequalities. Further investment of £3.6m has been made available for 2024-25 to continue with these measures.

An additional investment of £1.3m will see the introduction of temporary urgent dental access centres in Darlington and North Cumbria.

The ICB has started a procurement process to put in place 11 new contracts that will provide between 198,322 and 244,000 Units of dental activity (UDAs) across County Durham, Darlington, North Cumbria, Northumberland and Sunderland from January 2025, subject to a successful procurement outcome.