Amid an ongoing dental crisis facing the city, NHS England has confirmed three surgeries will be taking on an additional 15,000 units of dental activity (UDAs) until March 2023.
It has also been revealed that NHS appointments will become available at a practice in Cosham, after almost a year delay.
UDAs are a measure of the amount of work done during dental treatment. More complex dental treatments count for more UDAs than simpler ones - an examination is one UDA, fillings are three UDAs, and dentures are 12.
In a letter to Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt, NHS England said: ‘I must regrettably advise that we have been notified of two further contract terminations in Portsmouth that amount to 8,401 UDAs.
‘However, we immediately offered the associated activity levels to practices in Portsmouth as an interim measure. I am pleased to confirm that these practices are now in the position to take up the offer of an additional 15,000 UDAs until March 2023 (one is in the new practice in south Portsmouth) and the associated UDAs will be recommissioned in the forthcoming procurement process.’
A dental profile by Portsmouth City Council in 2020 showed in total 304,688 UDAs were commissioned for the city that year.
It comes after Ms Mordaunt advised commissioners in the city to bid for a slice of £50m that has been made available for dental appointments nationwide until 2023.
Speaking to The News she said: ‘New dental services will be live in February but I also want to maximise the use of dentistry that is already available. I am expecting the NHS to increase services in short order and bid for this new money. There is no excuse for poor access.’
As reported, Portsmouth has seen the number of available dental appointments plummet in recent years, stemming from the loss of three Colosseum practices in 2019 - leaving 20,000 people without an NHS dentist.
Although two new NHS contracts were awarded - to Smile Dental Care in Hanway Road, Buckland, which has already opened, and Cosham Dental Surgery in Cosham high street - which is set to open for NHS patients in February.
According to the NHS data, by the end of March 2021 just 90 NHS dentists were operating in the city, a 26 per cent fall compared to the previous year.
However, Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said the 15,000 UDAs were not enough.
‘I will welcome any new dental provision in the city with open arms, but we face a crisis in services and the government’s efforts so far have been a drop in the ocean,’ he said.
‘My postbag is full of constituents who are unable to get an appointment and dealing with persistent pain and discomfort.
‘I have written to health ministers to urge them to reform NHS services and will continue to raise this issue in parliament.’
And Roger Batterbury, the chairman of Healthwatch Portsmouth, said: ‘It is great news that we are now hearing that mid-February is the planned opening date for long awaited the Cosham Dental Surgery. This will provide a much needed 10,000 units of dental activity (UDAs) in the north of the city a year.
‘The news from NHS England that they have commissioned an extra 15,000 UDAs to improve local in response to the loss of 8,401 UDAs from two surgery closures recently announced is certainly welcomed.’
But he added it ‘may simply be compensating for those UDAs we have been waiting for from the so far (unopened) Cosham practice since April.’
‘We haven’t heard yet from NHS England whether there will as well be a mobile dental unit provided to provide immediate relief in the city,’ he said.
‘The additional NHS dentist appointments to be provided as part of the £50m NHS England funded treatment blitz in February and March will need to be offered by dentists in Portsmouth who have the capacity to offer these additional appointments outside of their currently contracted hours.
‘We are trying to find out how many that will be and will update our website with news.’
Following a meeting with the University of Portsmouth’s dental school on January 28, Ms Mordaunt revealed the city will be holding a dental summit and inviting providers, commissioners, public health and others to map out what is needed in terms of contracts and training ‘so everyone can see a dentist when they need’.