They saved lives and helped to keep us safe during the pandemic. But as we recover, we are seeing the impact of how, piece by piece, this government has dismantled primary care for over a decade, and continues to do so here in Portsmouth.
According to research by the Nuffield Trust, Portsmouth is the worst affected area in the country by the fall of 1,600 full-time NHS GPs since 2015, with just 40 GPs per 100,000 people.
We’ve seen local practice after local practice shut down, despite our community efforts to keep them open and my own lobbying of local decision-makers. The Guildhall Walk Healthcare centre closed. The John Pounds Medical Centre has also stopped its full-time GP service. All this despite promises made.
I have raised concerns locally. I have taken our concerns to Westminster. It is clear government has got to do its job to deliver the GP services Portsmouth people need and deserve, but Ministers continue to let our city down.
It’s a similar story with dentistry. The Association of Dental Groups (ADG) has found that our area has the 7th lowest amount of NHS dentists per 100,000 in the country, at 42.
Local Tory MPs claim the additional £6.8 million of piecemeal funding for dentistry in our region will help, but during the local dentistry forum I convened with local dentists and their representatives, it was made clear it doesn’t even begin to meet the scale of the challenge.
In the survey of local people I launched to hear their views, one respondent told me “My children and I travel to Watford every 6 months for our dental check-ups. There was no option to register with an NHS dentist in Portsmouth. Just hope none of us ever need emergency treatment.”
And possibly one of the most shocking examples of how bad things have got, a Portsmouth resident who resorted to pulling out two of his teeth with pliers, after struggling to find an NHS dentist. No one should be forced into DIY dentistry because NHS services are hanging by a thread.
As I told the Minister responsible in Parliament this week, Portsmouth is now not just a dental desert, it’s a new healthcare hell. I’ll keep standing up for our city’s patients in Westminster until constituents get the NHS services they deserve, and desperately need.