DUDLEY patients who need hospital orthodontic treatment could be sent to Birmingham after the closure of the clinic at Russells Hall.

The Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has temporarily closed their service to new patients after being overwhelmed by referrals.

The closure set alarm bells ringing with Dudley North MP Ian Austin who is concerned patients could be waiting indefinitely for treatment.

Ian Austin said: “Like anyone else who lives in Dudley and uses Russells Hall, I’m really concerned that patients needing to see a specialist are being turned away.

“I have asked local officials to set out what they are doing to ensure orthodontic treatment and advice is resumed as soon as possible."

He says he is concerned all orthodontic advice for health professionals, including GPs, has been removed and doctors are unable to get orthodontic advice on a range of issues including cleft lips and palates, and speech and eating disorders.

Russells Hall’s chief has reassured the public treatment will continue for existing patients.

Paula Clark, chief executive, the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust: “The decision to temporarily close the service to new referrals was taken because of a significant mismatch between demand and capacity: during the period January 4 2013 to January 2 2014, we received approximately 1,058 new referrals.

“The service is led by a single consultant and, despite several attempts to recruit a second consultant orthodontist; we have been unable to do so. Unfortunately, this is in line with a national problem recruiting orthodontists.

“The decision was not taken lightly and the temporary closure of the service to new referrals will enable us to effectively manage our waiting list.

“Dudley dentists will still be able to refer their patients to other providers across Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country.”