HEALTH campaigners last night vowed to pressure the NHS and ‘shout loudly for Portsmouth’ as the city’s dental care crisis deepened.
Determined activists from Healthwatch Portsmouth insisted they will fight for the island following the shock announcement three of the city’s NHS dental practices were to shut next month.
The closures – revealed by private firm Colosseum Dental Limited – will leave 9,000 people without an NHS dentist, with many now having to travel outside the city to receive free oral care.
Worried bosses from NHS England have already invited the city’s Healthwatch team onto a working group in which they will attempt to find an answer to the crisis.
Roger Batterbury, chairman of Healthwatch Portsmouth, welcomed the move and insisted that getting a new ‘robust’ dental provision ‘quickly and effectively’ was the one priority.
‘We will be a strident voice shouting as loudly as we can for the people of Portsmouth,’ he added. ‘We will be the voice for the city because what’s happened has been outrageous.’
Heads at Healthwatch England have already demanded action from the government and claimed people across the country already had ‘real trouble accessing an NHS dentist’.
The organisation said the closure of the dental practices in Paulsgrove, Portsea and Southsea was another worrying problem facing the nation’s dentistry industry.
A spokesman added: ‘Everyone should be able to access good quality NHS dental services.
‘In order for this to happen, people first have to find an NHS dental practice that is convenient to them, meets accessibility requirements, and has appointments available. ‘The closure of dentists in Portsmouth is clearly not going to do this.’
The News approached health minister Caroline Dinenage for comment about the crisis in Portsmouth. But the Gosport MP was unable to provide a statement before the paper went to press.
However, a spokesman from the Department of Health and Social Care said: ‘We are determined that everyone who wants to see an NHS dentist can do so, wherever they live.
‘Improving oral health is part of our wider focus on prevention in the NHS Long Term Plan and we're working closely with NHS England to support hardworking dentists and improve patient access to dental services across the country.’