COMMENT: Lack of NHS dentists in Portsmouth must be treated urgently

The shortage of NHS dentists has been a nagging ache for quite some time. But now it has turned into a severe pain that must be treated urgently.

We reveal today how shocking new figures show that Portsmouth has seen a bigger drop in dentist numbers than anywhere else in the country.

Getting an appointment with a dentist in the city in 2022 has become like finding a parking space down some of Portsea Island's many Victorian terraced streets - virtually impossible.

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According to NHS data, by the end of March last year there were just 90 NHS dentists operating in the whole city - more than a quarter fewer than the previous year.

This exodus means there are thousands of people out there without access to a NHS dentist.

So why has this happened? The dentists point to a lack of funding that has gone on for decades, leading those in the profession to arrive at a point where they say providing NHS treatment is no longer sustainable. As a result, contracts are not being continued.

Phil Gowers, chairman of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Local Dental Committee, says: 'We need more money – that's the bottom line. There has to be more investment so that we can create the preventative system we need.'

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We agree with Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan, who has urged the government to step up its efforts to increase provision. More must be done so that people who can't afford to go private can get NHS dental care.

It's why we're running our Kick in the Teeth campaign, demanding a radical overhaul of dentistry in Portsmouth.

Because the alternative is no check-ups or treatment, leading to poor oral health, to decay and disease - and surely nobody wants that.

The government must understand the seriousness of the situation and do more to ensure that dentists are better supported so they can continue to provide treatment to those who need it - not just those who can afford it.

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