Portsmouth MP Penny Mordaunt urges city to bid for emergency NHS dentist care funds

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A Portsmouth MP has urged the city to put in a bid for a slice of £50m that the government has made available to try to clear the backlog in NHS dental care.

NHS England has allocated the funds to provide 350,000 extra dentist appointments to deal with Covid-19 backlog.

Portsmouth North MP, Penny Mordaunt, has urged the city to bid on the funding to ensure better dental care for residents.

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The new scheme will be made available in February and March, with a new £50m fund to tackle the backlog caused by the pandemic.

NHS England has announced that 350,000 extra dentist appointments will be made available to tackle Covid backlog.NHS England has announced that 350,000 extra dentist appointments will be made available to tackle Covid backlog.
NHS England has announced that 350,000 extra dentist appointments will be made available to tackle Covid backlog.

According to NHS England, children, people with learning disabilities, autism, or severe mental health problems will be prioritised for the appointments as part of a dentistry 'treatment blitz'.

The service said that dentists who help to tackle the backlog will be paid more than a third on top of their normal session fee if they choose to work outside of hours including early mornings and weekends.

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Portsmouth NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is responsible for commissioning health services for those who live in the city.

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The CCG will need to bid on the funding to distribute the money to Portsmouth’s dental practices.

Penny Mordaunt said: ‘Our commissioners must bid for this money. I have written that they do this today. The DHSC recognises we are one of the most affected areas. There is provision available and no excuses for a dental service being stood up immediately. I also suggest that there needs to be a central booking system to deal with the number of people who need access.’

The funding will be available immediately to ease the ‘pressing issues’ in dentistry and the funds must be spent by the end of the financial year.

The MP added: ‘We have been raising this for two years. We have also identified where under used provision is in the city. No excuse for this not happening now.’

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However, many practitioners have said that more needs to be done to protect the NHS dental service.

The British Dental Association (BDA) stated that since March 2020, 38 million appointments have been 'lost' across England due to lockdown restrictions and infection prevention measures.

The Association has also warned that the backlog could take years to clear and that the funding is a 'time-limited' package.

Minister for Primary Care Maria Caulfield said: ‘Through the pandemic, we have prioritised urgent dental needs, vulnerable patients and free treatment for children, and thanks to the hard work of staff the delivery of urgent care is back to pre-pandemic levels. We are now working with the dental sector to recover and reform services, and this £50 million boost will help with that recovery.’

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A number of reports from the patient watchdog Healthwatch England have pointed to serious problems to dentistry access throughout the pandemic.

They found wide-ranging issues from people being asked to wait for three years for an appointment, others asked to conduct ‘DIY dentistry’ while waiting for help and some felt they were being coerced into ‘going private’.

Jacob Lant, head of policy at Healthwatch England, said: ‘This is a vital injection of money and will help tackle the spiralling crisis in dental access and affordability.

‘We are particularly pleased to see NHS England prioritising appointments for vulnerable people, including children, with many missing school and suffering in pain as a result of dental problems that were entirely preventable through routine care.

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“There still remains deeper and more systemic challenges in the dental sector that have been laid bare over the last two years, but we need to build from this and start to get the nation’s oral health back on track after this dreadful pandemic.’

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