A dental surgery with a troubled past has closed its doors for the final time - leaving thousands of patients behind.

Manor House in Long Stratton has permanently shut down, with patients informed via email and a pre-recorded message on its practice phone lines.

The surgery treated its last patients on Friday, August 5, exacerbating the shortages of dentists blighting the country.

The closure has sparked concerns from the region's health watchdog, which says that more than half of its complaints are now about dentistry shortages.

Alex Stewart, chief executive of Healthwatch Norfolk, said: "Over 50 per cent of our inquiries are now about this issue and the loss of this practice is going to leave even more patients struggling to get treatment.

"We are continually impressing on health leaders and Norfolk’s MPs the gravity of the situation. While a national problem, recent investigations have shown Norfolk is one of the locations where joining a practice as an NHS patient is impossible at the current time.

"Healthwatch Norfolk continues to press at a regional and national level for an urgent plan to deal with this problem which is likely to have an impact on the oral health of people in the county for generations without immediate action."

Long Stratton councillor Alison Thomas, who also chairs the county council's health and overview scrutiny committee said the closure had worsened the town's dental situation, which she described as "pretty grim".

She said: "It feels like for some time now patients in Long Stratton have been really struggling to get any appointment at Manor House that is not an emergency.

"I feel most for people without independent transport - where are they supposed to go now?

"This is just another level of challenge for them to get any kind of dental treatment. I'm really saddened for the people of Long Stratton."

An NHS spokesman said: “We are committed to ensuring everyone can access high quality dental care across Norfolk, and are working closely with dental providers to improve access to services, including inviting NHS contract holders to take on additional activity.

"We are looking into the closure of Manor House dental surgery and will be working with contract holders to outline how we can provide accessible and effective dental provision in the area."

Manor House was run by a company called Simply Smile Dental, which runs another surgery in the town along with surgeries in Dereham and Stalham.

A recorded message on the surgery's phone line states a company called Opus Insolvency Group is "engaged to assist with placing the company into creditors voluntary liquidation".

It is not clear whether the company's other surgeries will be affected. Opus has been contacted for comment.

In 2020 the site was badly impacted by flooding while one of its previous dentists, Ana-Maria Teodorescu, was brought before a misconduct panel that same year.

Shortages laid bare

Research has found that 90pc of NHS dental practices across the country are not accepting new adult patients - with 80pc not even taking on children.

While the Department of Health says it has made an extra £50m of funding available, the problems persist.

A dental practice in Norfolk told the BBC that it had more than 1,700 people on its waiting list.

Stark figures revealed earlier this year also show that Norfolk and Waveney is among the worst-hit areas in the country.

Figures published by the Association of Dental Groups in May showed that across the region there are just 38 dentists for every 100,000 people.

This equates to just one dentist for every 2,600 people living in Norfolk and Waveney, with NHS dental appointments continuing to be at a huge premium.

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker, whose father was an NHS dentist, is among a group of regional leaders pushing for a dentistry school to be established at the University of East Anglia.