The following update has been received by Alston Moor Parish Council on behalf of NHS Cumbria. This is following the shock news announced on 20th April, that Alston's dental services would be suspended until further notice because the building did not comply with the latest control regulations.

Email received by Alston Moor Parish Council from NHS Cumbria dated 27th April 2011

I have been asked to respond to your worries about the dental surgery on
the Alston Community Hospital site.

As you know the dental surgery has been closed in order for vital
refurbishment work to be carried out.

Unfortunately due to the dental equipment needed, the surgery cannot be
re housed in a temporary location such as the hospital.

In the meantime Dr Fotheringham's surgery have agreed to see patients at
the Brampton Practice as an alternative arrangement.

We realise this is a distance for patients to travel, but we hope to get
on with the refurbishment work underway as soon as possible and plan to
complete the work by early autumn to minimise disruption.

Ann Marie Palmer, Communications Officer
NHS Cumbria

Update letter of 27th April 2011 to all Alston dental patients 

Dear Alston Patients,

By now, many of you may have heard of or read my letter informing you that I had to close Alston because the building did not comply with the latest infection control regulations, HMT 01-05. In an effort to avoid being redundant I will not repeat the details provided in my prior letter, but I would like to keep you abreast of any updates which I have.

As it stands now, the PCT has given temporary approval for me to transfer work and continue treating you in Brampton until there is resolution about the building in Alston. In addition, I have been given verbal (informal) confirmation from an advisor of the PCT that the building will be renovated to meet the necessary requirements to satisfy HTM 01-05. That means that we will be able to have and use a separate infection control room. The renovations that I have been informed about could, also, include changing the internal parts of the building to allow better and improved access for our disabled patients.

While I believe that this is potentially very good news, it is important to note that I have not received written confirmation of these plans. In addition, I have absolutely no timelines about the completion of building work.

All of the above means that we will continue to proceed as I have already stated. Dental services for Alston patients will continue to be scheduled on alternate Mondays (for hygienist services) and Thursdays (for appointments with me) at our Brampton practice.

I would like you to assume that as I get additional news and/or plans, I will attempt to continue communicating them to you.

I am sorry about any inconvenience to you and I look forward to continuing to treat you.

Thank you.
Yours sincerely,

Dr James Fotheringham, BDS
Practice Director

Letter dated 20th April 2011 to all Alston Dental Patients

Brampton & Alston

Dear Alston Patients,

It is with deep regret that I have to inform you that I have closed the Alston practice, effective immediately.

I have had to make this hard decision following the inference from PCT Advisors who have questioned my professional integrity for trying to keep Alston open even though I was aware that the building did not comply with the latest infection control regulations, HMT 01-05. These regulations require a separate Sterilization Room where all used instruments/equipment are expected to be effectively cleaned, sterilized and stored. Because the Alston practice building does not have this facility and because I do not own the building, in an effort to remain open, I have communicated numerous times with the PCT about this. I have made it clear that we are unable to comply with this regulation due to the limitations of the building. To comply with the regulations as best we could and to provide the highest level of safety to you, on a daily basis, our staff have always cleaned and autoclaved all and any used instruments and equipment within the surgery. All single used materials and equipment have always been disposed of appropriately. Unfortunately, we had not been able to store instruments outside the surgery due to space limitations. The PCT have been fully aware of the inadequacy of their building.

Because of yet another new initiative, Care Quality Commission (CQC), as we complied with their paperwork, we correctly informed them of Alston's non-compliance with the HTM 01-05 regulation. Reporting this resulted in what should have been a response received many months (if not years) ago. The PCT took an in depth look at the building and the difficulties which we had been managing and reporting to them. However, as a result, instead of acknowledging that I have raised concerns about this for a long time, without questioning me about our procedures, the PCT and their advisors have inferred that we have been running the practice unprofessionally. I felt that I had no other option but to close the Alston practice until the PCT decides how they plan to renovate the building and/or relocate the practice, assuming they plan to continue funding the services. I am not prepared to continue working in or trying to make the best of what are unacceptable working conditions which could result in allegations of unprofessional conduct against me.

Many of you know that, for more than 30 years, I have been totally committed to keeping the Alston practice open. I believe that rural communities, such as Alston, warrant open access to services. Because of that, while I have closed the Alston practice, I am committed to continue providing services to you - but at our Brampton practice. If you believe that this is inconvenient for you, I agree with your sentiment. In order to accomplish this, I plan to keep the dedicated days which have always been allocated to Alston. Alston patients are welcome in the Brampton practice on alternate Mondays (for hygienist treatment) and Thursdays (to see me). You should have received or will receive a telephone call from Charlotte, the Alston Manager, to reschedule your appointment in Brampton.

In the event you wish to openly comment and/or complain about this change, please contact the PCT directly. You can write to:

Leanne Fawcett
Lead Commisioners - Dentistry & Oral Health
Ulverston Community Health Centre (1st floor)
Cumbria.  LA12 7BT
Tel. 01229 484 012
Email. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

While I am sorry about any inconvenience to you, I look forward to continuing to treat you.

Thank you.
Yours sincerely,

Dr James Fotheringham, BDS
Practice Director