The Ministry of Defense (MoD) is facing calls to rethink a groundbreaking initiative to create a joint health center for military personnel and the community in Catterick after it emerged that 17 of the 18 dental surgery rooms on the site would be reserved for soldiers .
The calls follow elected representatives from communities in Richmondshire expressing dismay at the distribution of resources across the joint NHS and MoD Catterick Integrated Care Campus, which is costing the taxpayer £55m, including a £12.69m contribution from the NHS.
Those behind the care campus have previously highlighted that it will provide a range of primary health care services that the entire population of the district will have access, “regardless of whether or not they wear a uniform.”
A North Yorkshire County Council meeting this week heard that the Ministry of Defense had paid for 17 dental surgeries on campus “as when they get an influx of 40 soldiers returning from tours or preparing to go out into the field, they need to be seen”.
An NHS official told the Richmond constituency committee that an 18th dental surgery on campus would be for members of the community who are unable to access dental care elsewhere due to physical or mental health.
Some Councilors expressed their dismay that the Ministry of Defense did not plan to allow dental facilities to be shared with the community at a time when they were not being fully used, noting that residents were “crying out” for more dental facilities.
Karin Sedgwick, Divisional Counsel for Leyburn and Middleham said soldiers wives they had complained despite facing agony that they would not be allowed to use dental surgery.
The councilors said that The position of the Ministry of Defense was “disgusting” as the military had been allowed to use NHS facilities at Friarage Hospital in Northallerton and James Cook Memorial Hospital in Middlesbrough.
The meeting was told that the NHS would face “very serious questions” if it had 17 dental surgeries that were not being fully utilized and that the NHS retained an aspiration to have NHS community dental services on site.
An NHS official said: “I hope that in the future we can bring our colleagues from the Ministry of Defense closer to the concept of sharing integration. At the moment we have not been successful in doing that.”
Councilman Kevin Foster, who represents nearby Colburnhe said the scheme represented a golden opportunity for the MoD to work together with the community to help staff integrate into civilian life.
He said: “I know from working in the military that in August the entire military usually goes on leave unless there are operations and to think that 17 dental surgeries will go unused. After all, it’s all taxpayer money, we’re all paying for it. I think this needs to be looked at seriously.”
After the conference Richmond Councilor Stuart Parsons he called on North Yorkshire and Richmondshire councils to withdraw their support for the scheme until it was clear that the residents they represented would not be “left with the crumbs”.
Coun Parsons, the county council Independent group leader, said residents were already crying out for more dental provision from the NHS, families of an additional 2,700 service staff were prepared to relocate the Catterick Garrison site by 2030.
He said: “This is an absolute scandal. If the MoD wants to reserve it all for the military then they should pay for it all and not take it from our budgets and money from each of our councils and central government that was earmarked for NHS provision.”
In response, a Ministry of Defense spokesman said it was continually reviewing the campus scheme, but had no plans to allow dental facilities to be shared.