Burnley is to get a dental super-centre with facilities for 10,000 NHS patients.
The venture has been hailed as a major step forward in solving the town’s dental crisis.
NHS East Lancashire bosses have earmarked the landmark former Aenon Baptist Chapel, in Red Lion Street, for the ambitious project, which will be one of the largest of its kind in the region.
The area’s community health commissioner NHS East Lancashire is behind the move to boost NHS provision in the town, as part of their overall strategy to deal with the high demand for NHS dentistry locally.
Already, thousands of extra NHS dentistry places have been provided at Ightenhill and in Padiham to fill the places left when several local dentists quit the NHS to go private-only.
Now, with the help of Burnley Borough Council, the local primary care trust has worked with its Lancashire-based building partner, the Eric Wright Group, to purchase the old chapel and convert the landmark building into a top-class NHS dental centre.
In addition, the revitalised premises will be used as a supervised Dental Training Centre to accommodate dentists who are in their final year of training.
This will be in addition to the Dental Education Centre adjacent to the Accrington Pals Health Centre in Hyndburn, where dental students are being accommodated by NHS East Lancashire, in partnership with the University of Central Lancashire.
In Burnley, once planning permission has been finalised, the intention is to begin work as soon as possible in the New Year. The aim is to have NHS dental patients using the new facilities by autumn.
In the meantime, expanded NHS provision is being made available to continue the substantial progress made so far in building up NHS dentistry provision in the town.
In addition, ever since the formation of NHS dentistry in 1948, only half of the population has ever registered with a dentist, with the standard of dental hygiene being poor in the town.
Peter Sellars, head of primary care at NHS East Lancashire, said: ‘A lot of work has gone into procuring this extra NHS provision in Burnley town centre and this is on top of the extra places we have been able to provide in Ightenhill, Padiham and neighbouring areas.
‘Over the past few years, we have worked hard to replace lost capacity and have achieved our aim in that regard. Now, we are building extra capacity for the future.
‘Our ambition is to improve NHS provision across all our five boroughs, though the need in Burnley is one of the highest. This state-of-the-art facility will help us tackle the issue and the training centre element will help us to grow our own dentists for the future.’