Concern that demand for NHS dentists in Portsmouth was 'underestimated' as patients turned away from new surgery
CONCERNS have been raised that demand for NHS dentists in Portsmouth was ‘underestimated’ as patients claim they were turned away just weeks after a new practice opened.
As reported, Smile Dental Care opened a surgery in the former Hanway Medical Practice in Hanway Road, Buckland, this month as part of a contract to replace NHS appointments lost when Colosseum Dental closed three Portsmouth surgeries in 2019.
It was commissioned by NHS England to provide 21,500 units of dental activity a year - with one unit equal to an examination and three units equal to giving fillings, for example.
However, just two weeks after its ‘quiet’ opening prospective NHS patients have been told there is no space.
A spokeswoman for Smile Dental Care said they were left ‘inundated with calls.’
She said: ‘We appreciate that these appointments are in high demand, and we are trying to keep this a fair process for all patients as we are getting numerous calls and emails.
‘We are making sure we are triaging patients in urgent need so we can get them the care they require.
‘We are offering our patients a full range of treatments and focusing on working together with the community and commissioners to open up NHS access and focus on promoting excellent oral health outcomes in the area.’
And a spokesman for NHS South East added: ‘Dental practices are currently operating at 60 per cent of their normal capacity for the safety of patients and practice staff.
‘As a result they are prioritising those people with the most urgent needs and there is only limited access for people requesting routine dental care.’
Around 20,000 patients in Portsmouth were left without an NHS dentist when Colosseum closed its practices in 2019.
NHS England worked to secure two new contracts to replace them - one of which was given to Smile with the other awarded to Cosham Dental Surgery, a private practice in Cosham high street.
It was confirmed those patients were not contacted about the opening of the Hanway Road site, as they were expected to contact the surgery themselves as is the standard practice.
City councillor Cal Corkery was contacted by a number of residents who weren’t able to get appointments.
‘This shows the desperate need we have for NHS dentists in Portsmouth,’ he said.
‘Whether the NHS has commissioned enough places will remain to be seen.’
Roger Batterbury from Healthwatch Portsmouth said he wasn’t aware the dental practice had opened initially, despite being involved in the process to secure a contract.
He said: ‘We knew there was immense need in the city so I am not surprised this has happened.
‘I think it was an underestimation of demand.’
Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan added: ‘It’s a step in the right direction that a new practice has now opened, but the scale of demand for appointments demonstrates this will only help to fill the lack of dental service provision our city was already dealing with prior to lockdown.’
To take part in a survey on dental provision visit.stephenmorgan.org.uk/dentist.