PORTSMOUTH has been hit by its worst health care crisis in a generation, dentists have warned, after it was revealed three of the city’s NHS dental practices were to be axed.
Colosseum Dental said recruitment difficulties had forced them to close their surgeries in Southsea, Paulsgrove and Portsea next month.
It’s left 9,000 people without any dental care, NHS England admitted last night, with city politicians fearing as many as 20,000 could ultimately be impacted by the shock closures.
The move comes as the NHS website showed no places available for new patients in Portsmouth, with the nearest spaces available a ferry ride away in Gosport or a half-hour drive away in Havant.
Phil Gowers, a former dentist and chairman of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Local Dental Committee, was horrified.
‘This is a massive situation for Portsmouth, it’s a crisis,’ he said. ‘What patients are now faced with is appalling.
‘But this isn’t something just affecting Portsmouth - it’s a national problem, one that has been caused by chronic underfunding by the government.’
Patients affected were sent letters by Colosseum over the weekend informing them of the closures.
The News understands a number of staff working at the three dental practices have been made redundant, although Colosseum refused to confirm how many.
The sites affected include Pauslgrove Dental Practice, in Allaway Avenue, Southsea Dental Practice, in Victoria Road North, and Portsea Dental Practice in the John Pounds Centre.
One patient, who did not wish to be named, said: ‘I received a letter saying that I would be provided ongoing care at another surgery but when I contacted them I was told all they could do was put me on a waiting list and 20,000 patients were affected by the closures.’
Havant woman Helen Churcher was a patient at Southsea Dental Practice. The 38-year-old, who works as a doctor at Queen Alexandra Hospital, said: ‘This is absolutely shocking. I’m not sure how anyone can have allowed this to happen.
‘It’s going to create major issues in five or 10 years with children who will present with more and more complex dental issues.’
Mr Gowers said recruitment was a major issue in the industry and claimed uncertainty over Brexit had caused a slow-down in the number of new dentists through the door.
Colosseum Dental Group is a Europe-wide company owned by investment group Jacobs Holding, based in Switzerland.
It gained responsibility for the three Portsmouth surgeries it is now closing when it took over the Southern Dental group in 2017.
A spokeswoman for the company said: ‘It was with regret and disappointment that Colosseum Dental UK has made the very difficult decision to close a small number of practices in the south-east.
‘This is due to long-standing and ongoing challenges in dentist recruitment, which makes it increasingly difficult to continue to provide the very highest standard of care to our patients, to which the company aspires.’
NHS England said patients in need of emergency dental care should call 111.
A spokesman added: ‘There are more than 20 dental practices open in the Portsmouth area and patients in nine in 10 dental surgeries will not be affected by these changes, while support is being offered for people to find alternative care where that’s needed.’