Will it be harder to see an emergency out-of-hours NHS dentist in Wakefield?
A new healthcare provider is set to take over the running of urgent and out-of-hours dental services for thousands of patients in West Yorkshire
Dental services accessed by patients via the NHS 111 line will be taken over by Birmingham-based Night Dental Ltd from next month.
Local Care Direct will cease running the urgent dental care service, with dozens of staff transferring to the new provider after April 1.
It means urgent weekend dental appointments will no longer be offered at Newstead House in Wakefield, with patients travelling to Leeds or Huddersfield.
Separate routine dental services at Newstead House Dental Clinic will not be affected.
The move has raised concerns over longer journey times to appointments for rising numbers of people who have to call 111 in a dental emergency because they are not registered with an NHS dentist.
Night Dental said it would be working with individual dental practices in Wakefield to provide some out-of-hours appointments.
The company's director Dr Sofina Ahmed said: "We understand the concerns regarding the change in urgent dentist care services across West Yorkshire.
"Our aim is to provide equitable and responsive care to all populations to ensure patients are able to access urgent dental care quickly and easily across the region. We hope to work in an collaborative way with service users and encourage feedback on their experience so we can constantly improve."
Nichola Esmond, chief executive of Healthwatch Wakefield, said some emergency dental patients would struggle to get to Leeds or Huddersfield.
She said: "I hope they will reconsider having a local service. The key thing for me is the fact that it meets the needs of people who can't get a dentist and who might not be able to travel. That's a growing need in Wakefield."
Local Care Direct, which has been running the service through its subsidiary company Dental Care Direct Ltd, declined to comment.
A spokesman for NHS England, which commissions the service, said: "From April 1, In West Yorkshire, urgent dental care will be provided by Night Dental, initially from the following locations - Leeds, Bradford and Huddersfield.
"As the previous contract holder has decided not to bid, the new provider will assess clinical setting options and more may be added to over time. In addition, some dental practices will continue to provide appointments to patients not routinely seen by them."
Night Dental will also take over the urgent dental care contract in the Humber, Coast and Vale area from next month.
NHS England said the duration of appointments would not be reduced. The spokesperson added: "The changes will result in a more equitable distribution of urgent care provision across Yorkshire and the Humber."